Editor’s note: This article was published before the coronavirus pandemic, and may not reflect the current situation on the ground.

In South Africa, two to three rhinos are killed by poachers every day. But there are pockets of hope—Holly Tuppen went to meet some of the brave individuals leading the charge.

If Thembinkosi has seen this all before, he’s not letting it dampen his enthusiasm.

“Look, in the sand,” he tells me. I do. It looks as if hundreds of little worms have wriggled and writhed the night away on a 30-centimeter patch of sand below our feet. “A rhino rolling on his back, probably this morning.” I run my hand over the marks, entranced.

Four of us have been tracking rhinos on foot since sunrise at Phinda Private Game Reserve, a 70,560-acre reserve in KwaZulu-Natal where seven ecosystems collide, hosting everything from crocs to cheetahs. Watching Thembinkosi (aka Mr T, assistant head tracker) at work is mesmerizing. He picks out our path, following where the rhinos have been chomping on grass, breaking branches, and even offloading on a midden, a communal pile of rhino dung that functions like ‘rhino Facebook’—spreading rhino gossip.