Operation Rhino Drop: Help Save Africa’s Rhinos

Operation Rhino Drop: Help Save Africa’s Rhinos

Right now, in South Africa, one rhino is poached every seven hours. And so far this year, 1,020 have already been killed. Ten years ago, we only lost four.

At the current rate, the rhino will be extinct in the wild within the next twenty years.

The hunt for wildlife in Africa is taking place at an alarming rate: every day, Africa loses 120 elephants, five lions and four rhinos. And with only 5,000 black rhinos left on the whole continent (50 years ago there were 500,000), the conclusion to this story is tragic, and it takes place within our lifetime.

Why are the Rhinos Being Poached?

In Asia, many people believe the rhino horn holds magically curative properties. It is purported to increase virility, cure cancer, treat headaches and combat food poisoning. These qualities, among many others, provide massive value on a global scale. As such, the commercial interest in their horns has become widespread, with affluent buyers searching high and low to obtain the remedies contained within the elusive rhino horn.

Given the astronomical market value of the horn—$65,000 per kg—wildlife poaching has become a major problem in Africa. Poachers elude authorities and anti-poachers on a daily basis in search of the horn.

The poaching process is not as simple as catch-and-release, though. The point on the rhino where the horn meets the face is said to contain the highest level of potency. Rather than just removing the horn, the poachers will often take the rhino’s whole face along with it.

What’s more, tourist hunting (or trophy hunting) is a major sector of the overall tourism market in Africa, with more than $200 million being generated annually in South Africa, Namibia,Tanzania and other sub-Saharan countries.

Two Rhinos
Sleeping rhinos

How Translocation is Going to Help Save the Species

In many African countries, wildlife conservation attempts are hindered by corruption that takes place at a governing level. Much access to wildlife is determined solely by policy-makers, rather than a competitive, market-driven system. Because of this, there is a lot of room left for policy-makers to make decisions based on personal financial gains.

And with such significant revenue at stake, these gains are not small; Africa generates somewhere around $80 billion in ecotourism revenue on an annual basis.

Although both South Africa and Botswana have some of the lowest levels of corruption in Africa, they are not, by any means, inculpable. The real issue at hand is that South Africa holds 80% of Africa’s rhino population, and coupled with their liberal poaching laws, it has become a primary target for poachers and trophy hunters.

Botswana, on the other hand, has very stringent anti-poaching regulations, and with a lower density of rhinos, it has the lowest poaching rate in all of Africa. Anti-poaching is regulated by the Botswana Defense Force, which operates with a “shoot-to-kill” policy, essentially treating any uncooperative poacher as an “aggressive military threat.”

The most obvious solution, then, is to move the rhinos from a place like South Africa to a place like Botswana.

Two Rhinos
Momma rhino and her baby

What is Rhinos Without Borders?

National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, who are based in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, are spearheading an operation called Rhinos Without Borders in an effort to translocate 100 white and black rhinos from South Africa to Botswana in the year 2015.

Most famously known for their work on National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative which has already funded 60 projects in 23 countries, the Jouberts are now dedicated to rhino conservation which, as they point out, is an integral part of wildlife conservation in Africa.

Through their Great Plains Foundation, Rhinos Without Borders has partnered with andBeyond, an eco-conscious luxury tourism venture with experience in rhino relocation, to help with the task.

As Mr. Joubert points out, it’s not only about protecting the rhinos, but it’s about spreading the risk. “One of the worst things we can do is keep the entire pool of assets in one place.” Moving a percentage of the population makes it harder for poachers and trophy hunters to hit big numbers of rhinos at one time.

A Poached Rhino
A poached rhino

What Does it Take to Move #JustOneRhino?

Moving a single rhino is a difficult and costly task, but it’s necessary in order to populate the rhino in Botswana.

After a lengthy process of identifying and selecting a rhino for relocation, a crew arrives by helicopter and darts and sedates the rhino. Blood samples and other information about the rhino are collected, and the strength of each rhino is assessed to ensure it is strong enough to make the trip. Finally, it is loaded into a container and driven to a quarantine boma (enclosure).

After a six-week quarantine period, the rhinos are airlifted and distributed to a secret, remote location in Botswana. Once the rhinos are on the ground, teams assess their health and set them free. Synthesized rhino dung is then used to help the animals establish their territory.

And because rhinos do not run in large herds or create strongly bonded kinships, the disruption to the rhino families is actually very minimal.

The total cost of the rhino relocation process is about $45,000 per rhino. To move 100 rhinos will cost a grand total of $4.5 million, though RWB is hoping to raise $8 million for continued conservation efforts.

Gettin' Busy
Rhinos gettin’ busy

Travelers Building Change and the #JustOneRhino Campaign

NOTE: This article was written to raise awareness. There was also a contest in which benefactors could win $30,000 in travel prizes. We raised more than $12,000 to help translocate a single rhino from South Africa to Botswana. Thank you for all your support!

In the largest grassroots blogger initiative that has ever existed, Travelers Building Change (TBC) is on a mission to raise awareness about rhino poaching. I have been working closely with Bret Love, of Green Travel Media, to develop the TBC project on a larger scale. This year, with the communal support of more than 100 travel bloggers, we are aiming to raise $45,000 to help translocate #JustOneRhino for the Jouberts.

For the past two years, under a slightly different name, TBC has been working to raise funds and awareness for various eco-conscious and tourism-focused causes around the world. Last year we raised $7,500 to help buy protected land for abused Asian elephants being rescued from the tourism industry.

This year, Bret and I have been working cooperatively to acquire sponsors for our project and, thanks in large part to the support of his creative services agency, Green Travel Media, we have more than 20 eco-conscious brands raising their hands in a show of support for Travelers Building Change and this year’s rhino conservation effort.

The TBC project runs on a donation-based system, and for every contribution that is made to help translocate #JustOneRhino, a commensurate number of raffle tickets are sent to each benefactor, who will be entered in a lottery to win one of our amazing prizes.

This year, we have more than $30,000 worth of travel prizes to give away to more than 20 different winners!

White Rhinos
White rhinos

$30,000 in Travel Prizes That You Can Win

NOTE: This contest has ended. Thanks for all your support!

By supporting the rhino conservation effort, and with a donation as little as $20, you can be entered to win some incredible travel prizes! Our five platinum sponsors have donated the following prize packages, which will be up for grabs for one lucky winner each. The donation period ends on February 28, 2015.

  • 9-day South Africa Safari in Kruger National Park and KwaZulu-Natal, valid for 2 people, from Adventure Life. Valued at more than $6,000.
  • 10-day Galapagos Voyage, valid for one, with International Expeditions. Valued at $5,298.
  • 10 nights’ stay at Yemaya Island Hideaway and Spa, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, valid for two people, from Yemaya Resorts. Valued at $5,241.
  • 7 nights in a bed and breakfast in a Garden View Suite, from Cobblers Cove. Valued at $5,187.
  • Five vouchers for 3-night stays at various locations around Southeast Asia (Bali, Indonesia, Koh Samui, Thailand, Koh Kong, Cambodia and Palawan, Philippines), from Secret Retreats. Five winners, each valid for two people. Valued at $900-$1,500 each.

Other prizes which are up for grabs include:

  • eBag Luggage
  • WeWOOD Watches
  • Dinner/Brunch Cruises
  • 2 nights in an Italian Villa
  • 2 Tours in India
  • ExOfficio Gift Certificate
  • 2 nights in Renaissance Asheville
  • Travel Blog Success Lifetime Membership
  • African Elephant Photo Pack
  • HDR Timelapse Video Camera w/Lens
  • Blogger Mentorship Package from Green Global Travel

To view the full prize list, please visit TravelersBuildingChange.org. Or click the button below to donate and help us to save #JustOneRhino.

NOTE: This contest has ended. Thanks for all your support!

JustOneRhino Sponsors

Image credits: Beverly Joubert

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