TJSL Student Advocates for Rhino Conservation
October 28, 2014
On Monday, September 22, 2014, people around the globe celebrated World Rhino Day. I attended “Winos for Rhinos,” a local event hosted by the International Rhino Keepers Association. The event celebrated the five remaining species of rhinos, raised awareness to the ever-declining rhino population, and raised money to aid rhino conservation.
I personally fell in love with rhinos the first time I met one. I was just starting as a tour guide at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly known as the Wild Animal Park) when I met Bhopu, a Greater-One Horned Rhinoceros. I fed him apples, pet him, scratched him behind his ears, and fell in love with his gentle sweet heart. As a tour guide, I had the honor of meeting many more rhinos – each with their own personalities and preferences – and sharing their stories with guests at the park.
Knowing how sweet rhinos can be, and how important they are to their ecosystems, makes the declining rhino population even more tragic. Over the last few years, poaching has increased to the current rate of three to four rhinos killed every day. In 2013, poachers killed a record high of 1,004 rhinos in South Africa alone; the number of poached rhinos is projected to be higher for 2014.
Rhinos are poached for their horns. Many cultures believe a rhino’s horn can cure illnesses, or is believed to be an aphrodisiac. A rhino’s horns are made of
the same protein that makes up our own fingernails and hair: keratin. Therefore, a rhino’s horns have no medicinal properties, and they are not an aphrodisiac.
Rhino conservation addresses many issues with population declines: breeding programs like at the Safari Park, education to debunk the myths about their horns, international laws to protect rhinoceros and other endangered species, and anti-poaching rangers. In late October, Thomas Jefferson’s SALDF organization will be hosting a panel at TJSL addressing some of these issues. Anti-poaching Ranger Mike will be on-campus to answer questions. Keep an eye out for further event details.
More information about rhino conservation and anti-poaching efforts is available through the International Rhino Foundation (www.rhinos.org), the International Rhino Keeper Association (www.rhinokeeperassociation.org), and Fight with Mike, Direct Anti-poaching and Conservation (www.facebook.com/ Fight.with.Mike.Poachers).
More information about poaching, endangered species, and the law, look through the ABA Endangered Species Committe information at (http:// apps.americanbar.org/dch/ committee.cfm?com=NR350200).
Feel free to visit me at the Safari Park too! I work as an African Tram tour Guide on the holidays and weekends. Happy Belated World Rhino Day!