Posts Tagged With: hope

Kenya keeps hope alive for the black rhino

In 2013, after a trip to Samburu, Nakuru, Amboseli and Masaai Mara, the one disturbing theme was “There used to be rhinos here.” Aside from an occasional siting on the Mara, rhinos had vanished, wiped from what used to be their home.

In contrast Ol Pejeta was maintaining a safe haven for both white and black rhinos within the sanctuary.

Black rhino at Ol Pejeta.

But today, there is something stirring in the bush that wasn’t there on my trip-hope.

In 2015, with combined efforts of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) and Lewa Conservancy, several black rhinos were reintroduced to Samburu. They have been relocated to a 21,000 acre sanctuary in Sera Community Conservancy  with hopes they will slowly reestablish a population in the area.

Inside Sera’s translocation, photo courtesy of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy

This is the first time in Kenya, a community is responsible for the protection and management of black rhino, as it is usually a goverment led initiative.

In February of 2017, the  Sera conservancy will launch a black rhino tracking safari to further their investment in tourism.

Additionally, both Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy have been successful in maintaining a healthy, breeding population of black rhinos. In fact, so much so, they have run into the situation of reaching maximum capacity.

The success of both sanctuaries stems from their surrounding areas; it is a symbiotic relationship when communities see the financial benefit from tourism, and ultimately the key to keeping the rhino alive.




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EVERY rhino counts


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The Future Rewards those who press on…

 We don’t put a lot of weight into labels, i.e. republican, democrat, etc; but into actions. What will an elected official DO to help or hinder our animals, our environment?
The actions of our current President included an almost total ban on ivory trade in the US, forming an US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, and incorporating wildlife trafficking laws into the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)enabling more enforceable laws on countries who heavily trade.

President Obama issued the executive order to combat wildlife trafficking in 2013. photo: CITES

In fact under Obama, the US has  protected more endangered species due to recovery efforts than any other Administration in history.
 The new President elect’s agenda doesn’t seem to include much promise in the way of conservation efforts and the environment.
He has stated he would cut the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), saying the environment will be fine; and has surrounded himself with “a team advisers and financial supporters tied in with trophy hunting, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other abusive industries” (according to the Humane Society Legislative Fund President Michael Markarian)
 We sincerely hope that Mr. Trump’s actions are not as harsh and negligent as his words; and that the US pledge to fight wildlife trafficking continues in the way of legislature, attitude and ambition.
But while we hope, we also continue to fight.
 The victories of the last few years have not only lifted our hopes and ambitions, but have given them a backbone. We can’t forget how much has been started. That momentum will continue to drive us forward, to fight for every inch, every yard of progress in the coming months and years.
Our mission remains the same, our momentary disappointment is giving way to determination. As President Obama once said ” The future rewards those who press on…” We have been and will continue to fight to secure a future for rhinos and wildlife.

Photo: Chris Fischer

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Encouraging news for the smallest Rhinos

One of the most unique and endangered rhino species is the Sumatran. These hairy beasts are lesser in size than the rest of the rhinos, and in numbers. With only about 100 known individuals left, they seem to be on the fast track to extinction.

Yet, there is a glimmer of hope.

With such critically low numbers, every birth is a big deal.  When it comes to mothers, the Sumatran Ratu is a star.  Living in the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia she gave birth in 2012, and is now expecting a second baby due in May.

baby sumatran international rhino foundation

Ratu’s first calf, Andatu; photo: International Rhino Foundation

This coincides with the recent return of Harapan, formerly from the Cincinnati Zoo, to the wild. In late 2015 he made the epic journey across the globe to the SRS, with the goal of eventually doing his part in perpetuating the species.

Harapan Dec 2015 2

Harapan, happy and healthy in his Indonesian home. Photo: Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

But perhaps what tops it all is this week’s discovery of 15 previously unknown individual Sumatrans.

In response to this news, the Indonesian government is quickly converting a former gold mine into a sanctuary for them. With hopes to safely transfer them, they will be guarded by a rhino protection unit just like the ones in place at the SRS, which have successfully staved off poaching for more than 7 years.

Rhino Protection Units are comprised of trained 4 man teams. Photo: International Rhino Foundation


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Will there be rhino horn under the tree?

In 2013, sadly the most popular Christmas gift in Vietnam was rhino horn. The use of horn, as well as other rare animal products is deeply embedded in Vietnamese culture, and is a current trend of a luxury item within the country’s elite.

Vietnam occasions for horn use Wildact 2015

-WildAct Vietnam 2015

Vietnam has the tragic distinction of being the country MOST responsible for the growing demand for rhino horn. The majority of consumers are mid to upper income males, conforming to the egotistical social pressures of  ‘the rarer the product, the more “valuable” or “cool” it is to have.’

Knowing the market, and being an influential businessman, Richard Branson has become an advocate and voice in the fight against horn use in the country. In September, he spent an evening in Ho Chi Minh City with the country’s elite.

“Listening to 25 of the country’s leading entrepreneurs around the table, I quickly learned how much the issue has already become part of a national conversation – one that has caused great embarrassment for a country of 90 million people that is rapidly entering the global market. But change is difficult to come by, stifled by a lack of interest in conservation issues and also by insufficient enforcement. On the upside, as I learned over dinner, younger Vietnamese seem to understand the seriousness of the problem and no longer wish to be associated with these harmful habits.” -Richard Branson

face campagin

A campaign geared toward the business men who utilize horn.

Yet according to a survey of Vietnamese youth (15-40), conducted by our Rhino Alliance partners, WildAct, there is little understanding of animal welfare. Despite the  conservation education campaigns that have been introduced, there are a great deal of Vietnamese youth still wanting to own wildlife products.

It is difficult to obtain true numbers indicating actual growth or decline in usage, but the number of poached rhinos this year is at an all time high, with at least 1500 poached in 2015.

Wildlife consumption and use is a social event in the country. It is a matter of changing tradition and trends.  To better understand the difficulty of this, imagine if turkeys  became endangered; could we convince people to stop consuming them every November?

In the meantime, how many rhino horns will be gifted this Christmas? How much longer can they sustain the slaughter and demand?

The silver lining is that in WildAct’s survery, nearly 98% of the youth agree the government should do more for wildlife conservation. Continued education and empowering the youth is the key to curbing the demand.

wildlife ambassadors for rhinos

Investec supports a program for youth ambassadors for wildlife in Vietnam.




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Thandi: Life of a Survivor

Everyday there is another poaching, most of the time another life taken. But for the “lucky” few, they survive.

For those rhinos, it’s not just a matter of providing a bit of veterinary care, then sending them on their way. The physical and emotional toll it takes lasts the rest of their days.

A couple of months ago we were in Kariega Reserve and had the privilege of meeting one of my heroes, Thandi, the rhino who cheated what seemed certain death.

On our second siting of Thandi and “baby” Thembi, it was immediately obvious from a distance that something was different. As she moved through the grass, happily grazing with Thembi not far behind, the sun shone off her face showing a glint of red. Moving in closer, there was no doubt it was bloody and raw.


Thandi, wound re-opened. photo: Fight for Rhinos

After numerous skin grafts, being anesthetized and treated, this is as good as it will ever be for her. Even the best of veterinary care and creative “bandaging”, cannot hold up to rhino life. There is a bull in the area who does what comes natural, the equivalent of rhino flirting. Through pushes and bumps, the thin skin over her nasal area isn’t as sufficient as the protection of her own horn.

She doesn’t seem to be in pain, as she happily munches her grass or gives Thembi “love taps”. In fact, the blood was the only sign something was wrong.

But as Thembi grows older, Thandi will mate again, hopefully making Thembi a big sister. Rhino mating is not a gentle process!

The Kariega staff and veterinary team keep a close eye on their star. She is in good hands, but seeing the occasional re-opening of the wound is a constant reminder of her struggle, of the long road we are all traveling in the poaching war to prevent other rhinos from the same horrible fate.

Thandi Thembi Kariega

Thandi and Thembi grazing and taking in the sun. photo: Fight for Rhinos



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The 11th Hour for the Northern White Rhinos

San Diego, CA-last hope for the Northern White Rhinos.

Nola san diego

Nola, the one of four remaining Northern White Rhinos, resting at home in the San Diego Zoo. photo: courtesy of the SDZ

There are presently only three Northern Whites’ left in Kenya and one in California.

All previous plans to breed and re-populate the species have heartbreakingly failed. It has come to the final hour.

In a last attempt to save the species, six Southern White Rhinos have been flown from South Africa to San Diego in an attempt to be implanted with embryos of the Northern Whites.

six southern whites arrive off plane

Southern White Rhinos arrive in San Diego International Airport after a 22 hour flight from Johannesburg. photo: courtesy of San Diego Zoo

If the procedures are successful , they would be put to use to preserve endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos as well.

Although researchers are optimistic, success will not be fast enough; as they estimate it could take 10-15 years to see a successful outcome. In the meantime, the four living rhinos are aging, and running out of time.

The Northern White Rhino used to range over parts of  Eastern and Central Africa (Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the  Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo). In 1960, 2,000 northerns existed.

For more on the Northern White Rhinos: Watching the Sun Set on a Species, The Last Male on Earth, Look What You’re Protecting




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New hope for Sumatrans

In August the Cincinnati Zoo officially announced they would be saying goodbye to Harapan. A bittersweet but important move for the Sumatran rhinos.

Hary resize

Soon  he will set out on an epic journey to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia. This move is in hopes that he will be able to breed and help increase the dwindling numbers in their population. There are only approximately 100 Sumatrans left in the entire world, with only 9 existing in captivity.

The zoo has held the distinction of having the first successful birth in captivity in 112 years. From 2001 to 2012, Emi the Sumatran gave birth to three offspring; Andalas, Suci and Harapan.  In 2007 Andalas was sent to the SRS and successfully bred. Unfortunately Suci has passed away from the same genetic disposition as her mother, Emi.

Now it is Harapan’s turn to join his brother in Indonesia, where he will have 3 potential mates to choose from and hopefully continue his famous mother’s bloodline.

“Ultimately, the responsibility for saving this magnificent species now lies squarely on the shoulders of our Indonesian colleagues. Our hope is that they succeed beyond all of our wildest dreams,” said Dr. Teri Roth, director of the zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife CREW).

In addition to this urgent move, it was announced on September 22 (World Rhino Day) that there is another Sumatran at the SRS who is pregnant! This baby is the second offspring sired by Andalas.


Andalas   photo: SRS

“To have a confirmed breeding success at SRS weeks before we send Andalas’ younger sibling, Harapan, to the sanctuary for the same purpose is encouraging and fuels the hope that Harapan will also contribute to the survival of his species, “ stated Roth.


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World Rhino Day 2015

Back stateside, after 2 weeks in the bush… we learned so much, met fantastic people with great minds and passion for wildlife, and were able to re-focus as we looked into both current and new strategies in our part in the poaching war.

Starting off in the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) , Fight for Rhinos sponsored the dehorning of one of  two poaching survivors, and personally sponsored the other. They are well cared for and coming along nicely in their rehabilitation.


Lions Den & Dingle Dell, poaching survivors at HESC before the dehorning. Photo: Fight for Rhinos

We left HESC feeling satisfied and productive after meeting with such professional and experienced people. As we arrived at the airport, a chopper flew low overhead. A moment later we heard of a possible poaching.

A feeling of dread set in, mind racing, as we wondered about the rhinos we had just seen, both in the Centre and in the bush. Was it one of them?

Unfortunately, being anywhere in Africa it seems wi-fi is spotty at best. It was a couple of days before we heard that not just one, but FOUR rhino were poached in Hoedspruit.

Funny that it should matter being there, as opposed to hearing about it from behind the laptop. But emotion doesn’t often make sense. And sitting in the airport, I felt like we should have been able to help them somehow.

It took some time to shake that feeling, it weighed heavy on me. But having so much further to go, so many more people to meet, I tried to focus on the rest of our agenda.


White rhino in the Kruger area. Photo: Fight for Rhinos

Thankfully there were many parts of our visit that brought us hope. Veterinary staff, APU teams, guides and rangers alike helped shed light on their needs, their vision, their eagerness to push forward and protect the rhinos.

A member of the HESC team touched my heart as she gifted me a bottle of Rhino Tears wine (the purchase of which supports rhino conservation). I immediately decided if it made it’s way home unscathed by the airlines, we will not be indulging until the poaching crisis reaches a turning point. It sits in my kitchen as a reminder of what’s still left to do.

So as we celebrate another World Rhino Day, we’re really celebrating another year with the existence of rhinos in the wild. Another precious year, another chance to get it right.

We appreciate your support, and look forward to sharing our new strategies and plans soon. In the meantime, keep sharing, tweeting, and raising awareness! Together we will keep making a difference.


Looking forward to turning the tide, and finally tasting the wine.




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Search for the Holy Grail

We’re off to South Africa, home of over 75% of the world’s remaining rhinos. Meetings, discussions, observations; and doing what every other passionate, serious rhino advocate is doing-searching for the holy grail.FFR donation pic

We’re all equipping our rangers, delivering milk to the orphans and trying to educate the masses; standing our ground, constantly searching for THE answer, “the game changer” solution to end the poaching once and for all.

Maybe there isn’t one. But from the APUs, the education campaigns and individual support, we are attacking the crisis from every angle, and we ARE having an impact.

  • In the latest survey in China, 24% fewer people believe rhino horn is a medicinal cure. Education IS working.
  • The number of rhinos poached outside of Kruger National Park has decreased.
  • There have been 51 more arrests than the same time last year.


It’s difficult to get past the photos of faceless, bloodied rhinos and see the hope. But it’s there, and it’s important we take note of it. Without the small steps of progress, this war would be over and not only the rhinos would have lost, but the other wildlife that are in line to be the next “medicine or trophy or status symbol”.

Of course we’ll still be searching for THE elusive final solution, but in the meantime we have our noses to the grindstone and continue to fight for each ranger, for every rhino, and for the preservation of our wildlife. We salute our fellow conservation groups, and are grateful for individuals who advocate for rhinos. Your support keeps the spark ignited, keeps the search going and keeps hope alive.

Keep the faith!

SA trip map

Our itinerary…




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