Care For Wild - Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI wearing the Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI
Former England skipper Kevin Pietersen who was part of the IPL 2021 commentary team before the event was postponed, was in India recently before heading back to the UK. He tells us about partnering again with Swiss watchmaker Hublot for the second edition of the 45 mm Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI, their shared values, and why protecting the black rhino against poachers is so crucial today. Kevin is the founder of SORAI – an organization that aims to protect endangered species from extinction – and works with the world’s biggest rhino orphanage Care For Wild, which will benefit directly from a part of the proceeds of the sale of the limited-edition watch.
The new edition of the 45 mm Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI is a nod to the green African bush in summer, and a symbol of hope for the black rhino
Poaching is a threat to the survival of any endangered species, how great is the threat to the black rhino?
The black rhino is critically endangered; in fact, all rhino populations are critically endangered. They have lost two-thirds of the rhino population in southern Africa. It’s been decimated over the last 10 years. When you look at the numbers 10 years ago to where they are today, the pressure on those animals today, from the messages I get every day, it’s catastrophic what’s happening in southern Africa. (Today, it is estimated that there are less than 500 black rhinos left in Kruger National Park, in South Africa.)
On the flip side, here in India and Nepal, in Kaziranga, and in Manas National Park, the numbers are thriving, but unfortunately in southern Africa, which houses 80 percent of the world’s rhino, the news is not good.
Baby rhinos at Care For Wild
What is it exactly – is it the demand for the horn for medicine that’s causing it?
It’s the value of the horn – $65,000 – 85,000 a kilo – so on the black market it’s more expensive than heroin, or cocaine, if you look at the other commodities out there, it’s more expensive. In fact, it’s the most expensive and sought-after commodity. The medicinal value, yes, but also the big issue is with this symbol of wealth. You have these greedy fat cats that are sitting around, showing off and saying, hey, look at my mantelpiece, I’ve got a piece of rhino horn – I’ve got money; I am rich; I am wealthy. That is quite a big issue.
Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI with Petronel Nieuwoudt founder of Care For Wild, in the magnificent Kruger National Park
And how did you get into animal conservation?
I got into conservation in 2012-13 on a return safari trip to Africa, where we had just done the microchipping of some rhinos. Whilst we were doing the microchipping of the rhino, the vets, experts, and everyone around the rhinos were discussing how severe the situation was vis-à-vis rhinos, and how they were becoming an endangered species.
Three rhino a day were being killed and I couldn’t believe I didn’t know this. So while we were there we got a call and we flew by helicopter to an ensnared elephant. We rescued the elephant, and it got up and walked away. Right there and then I decided I wanted to be a part of trying to help the animals, try and help save a species. So since 2012-13, I’ve been completed dedicated to try and help save an animal species.
Your organization SORAI, also works with Indian organizations, so you have a connect with India…
Yes, we work with the Centre for Wildlife Studies in India. I shot a documentary in Kaziranga National Park last year just before lockdown – it was February last year, and for two weeks, we were shown the sights and sounds of that part of India. It was breathtaking, how special and spectacular that part of India is.
Normally when I come to India, I just see a hotel and a cricket ground, or a restaurant, but to experience the beauty of Kaziranga National Park – to see how clean and fresh the air is, and how beautiful the sunrises and sunsets are – it is positive to note how well the rhino population is doing in this part of the world.
Care For Wild - Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI wearing the Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI, with a black rhino
How is the Indian rhino compared to its African cousin?
They look different. I don’t like the temper on the Indian one! It’s very, very aggressive. In Africa you can get really close to the rhino, they come around your car. I was there in December and I got some nice sightings of the rhino – but unfortunately in India, that’s not the case. Indians are very caring, placid, loving, hospitable, peaceful, but goodness, the Indian rhino is not peaceful! There were instances while we were filming with this long lens camera, and we had to be 50 m away from the telephoto lens. So we were between that camera and a waterway. And the rhino was running out of the waterway which was 20-30 m away, trying to chase the vehicle! In Africa you can turn the car off, listen, and watch. But you need to have your foot on the pedal in Kaziranga, those guys really come for you! That’s probably why they have been able to safeguard themselves.
Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI with the Kruger Park Rangers
Can you tell us about the situation in Kruger National Park today – poaching is rampant because there are so few guards…
There’s a shortage of rangers, and corruption right up to the top. All over the world, where there is money, there is greed, and where there is greed, there is an issue. And the issue is – right there for us to see. The rhinos are being punished on a daily basis because they are not being protected as they should be protected. And it’s an absolute tragedy to continually see how these majestic animals are being butchered for something that is no different than our fingernails. The horn is just keratin, at the end of the day. It’s a sad day for an imminent departure of a beautiful species.
The rubber camo strap of the 45 mm Big Bang Unico SORAI matches with the wildlife conservation principles of SORAI
Your partnership with Hublot – you always like to partner with like-minded brands – what do you like about Hublot?
Hublot is innovative, progressive, forward-thinking, proactive, luxurious. And that leads the collaboration so well. The best part of our collaboration is that it was done pre-Pandemic. I know, because I’ve got brands wanting to collab with SORAI, now, being reactive to what is happening right now in the illegal wildlife trade, that has caused panic and pandemonium all over the world.
Whereas Hublot was in before, and put their heart and soul into this product, and we built such a beautiful relationship between myself and Ricardo (Ricardo Guadalupe – CEO, Hublot) and his team. They are such a wonderfully committed, passionate team, that we have worked so well with. The relationship is growing from strength to strength. The results from the first watch were better than I could possibly ever have expected, so we are buzzing with excitement for this next edition.
Care For Wild - Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI wearing the Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI, feeding baby rhino
What do you love about the all-new Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI?
The first watch was winter colour-driven – a sandy, dry, rustic colour of the bush in the middle of winter, the drought months. Whereas what we have done with this watch is we have brought out the greenery and beauty of the summer months; we brought out its absolute magnificence in the colour scheme, of what summer looks like in the African bush. Having spent a month there over Christmas, it really is special. As hot and humid as it gets, there is just a brand-new lease of life, there are so many babies running around – from impala, to leopard cubs, lion cubs, little giraffes, baby rhino, and baby elephants, it just is the most special season. To go from a dry winter period in the first SORAI watch to the summer period and have that reflected in the watch, plus the black rhino on the dial, whereas we had a white rhino on the dial of the first watch, makes it even more special. Honestly it will probably sell even quicker than the first one sold.
The skeletonized green dial of the 45 mm Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI, with the rhino created by Kevin Pietersen's son
The skeletonized rhino on the dial is very touching…
My son drew the rhino. For my son to have that rhino here and for it to become such a globally recognized brand, is so cool. There are so many stories within stories, which is what we love about this watch.
The all-new Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI is a chronograph limited to 100 pieces - part of the proceeds of the sale go to Care For Wild rhino orphanage
About the chronograph function – do you like to use it in a watch?
I do like it, a hundred percent, and that is why we went down that route. In the first watch, we were very hands on, because we were allowed to travel and have face to face meetings. I went to HQ in Switzerland, sat with the team and designed the watch. We looked at the moving parts, went to the factory, and had quite a big involvement in the first watch. We produced something that I loved and that Hublot loved. This progressed into this next watch, which was clearly harder to do, because we weren’t allowed to travel. However because the relationship was so strong thanks to the result of the first watch, it was a breath of fresh air, and we sailed through. We were able to do it over Zoom, we were able to pick the colours, and all that. Technology certainly helped us.
Kevin Pietersen with the Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI watch
Is the shade of green is inspired by a particular place?
It’s the summer months in the African bush, the greenery of the vegetation that is depicted in the colour. We went from drought-ridden winter to the green of the vegetation in the bush in the summer months that is so clear to see. It’s beautiful and pristine. When we went to shoot the campaign in November, the rain had fallen, there was water and the vegetation had started to change into this beautiful green. I was pretty happy with what happened.
You are half South African, do you miss that part of your heritage?
I do miss it actually, a hell of a lot, especially with South Africa being red listed now. I was lucky enough to get the family there for three weeks for Christmas. We got a three-week break out in our lodge (Kevin Pietersen built the luxurious Umganu Lodge on the banks of the Sabi River, overlooking Kruger National Park a few years ago). Africa is definitely in my heart.
Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI with Petronel Nieuwoudt, founder of Care For Wild
Some of the proceeds of the watch will go to the Care For Wild – can you explain to us what this rhino sanctuary does?
It feeds the rhino orphans, and it protects their space. It’s a very private location because of how valuable it is within the realms of the number of animals that are there, so it goes towards security, rescue, rehabilitation, rewilding and release, feeding the rhino, caring for staff; there are so many good things. Petronel (Petronel Niewoudt is the founder of Care For Wild) is one of the most inspirational women I have ever met. She gives her heart, her soul, her life, and has dedicated her life to protecting these animals. When a baby rhino comes in – a baby came in a couple of weeks ago – she will sleep with that baby for days, and will resuscitate a baby if it needs mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep it alive. You go to this place and you can’t walk away without thinking – how can I make this place better? Hublot has 100 percent helped in making sure that the animals are protected, and everything continues to work like clockwork. When you send the US dollar to South Africa it goes a very long way, let me tell you.
The 100 owners of the Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI watch – they will feel they have contributed their bit…
I hope so! I think they are animal lovers, and they will look cool too, because it’s a beautiful watch, and a talking piece. People will say, what’s that – see the rhino – when you have 100 people wearing the watch and broadcast the message, it makes it more powerful.
Recently Rohit Sharma sported the SORAI rhino logo on his bat, does this kind of support mean a lot to you?
We have had a lot of support from many athletes and celebrities from all over the world. We are doing a big drive at the moment – on social medial, with SORAI as a brand. The level of support is humbling.
Kevin Pietersen founder of SORAI wearing the Hublot Big Bang SORAI
Are you wearing your Hublot?
I had been wearing the Hublot smart watch, and the other Hublot has been with me in the safe. I have just got my hands on the new Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI.
How has it been to be a part of the IPL?
Being part of the IPL is unique and it’s a very special tournament. I hope that India sees a downward curve in what is happening with the Pandemic because it’s hitting India hard. As good as sport is, from the humanitarian point of view we need to start seeing a decrease in cases here.
The green microblasted ceramic case of the 45 mm Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI reflects the verdant greenery of African bush in summer
THE HUBLOT BIG BANG UNICO SORAI
Limited to a 100 pieces, the 45 mm Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI has a microblasted and polished green ceramic case and bezel. It has a matte green skeleton dial with “Rhinoceros” appliqué at 9 o’clock. The hours are marked with matte green lacquered appliqués with white luminescent material. The timepiece is a UNICO manufacture self-winding chronograph featuring a flyback movement (with column wheel), with the Hublot MHUB1242 caliber, beating at a frequency of 4Hz; 28’800 A/h. It has 330 components and 38 jewels. It has a power reserve of 72 hours, and is water resistant to 100 m.
The caseback of the Hublot Big Bang Unico SORAI
The caseback, also in microblasted green ceramic, features sapphire glass with anti-reflective treatment with the logo SORAI printed on it. The timepiece comes with a choice of two straps: green fabric with microblasted black buckle; and black rubber with camouflage décor, with black ceramic and black-plated titanium deployant buckle strap.
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