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What Does it Take to Save Just One Rhino?

With one rhino dying by the hands of poachers every seven hours, there isn't time to waste, and with everyone's help, the #JustOneRhino campaign might just make a difference. 

Photo Credit: Susan Portnoy.

2015 is set to be an incredible year for the endangered rhino. The largest blogger-driven fundraiser ever assembled has started making waves in the fight against poaching. Two organizations, Travelers Building Change (founded by Jeremy Scott Foster) and Green Travel Media (founded by Brett Love), have teamed up to raise money for Rhinos Without Borders through 2015. Rhinos Without Borders was developed to save rhinos by translocating them from South Africa to secret locations in Botswana with the hope of providing a safe haven for them to thrive in. RWB’s conservation goal for this year is to raise five million dollars and translocate 100 rhinos out of harms way. This project was started by National Geographic Explorers In Residence Derek and Beverly Joubert, founders of the Great Plains Foundation.

With 100 percent of donations going directly to the project, over 120 of the world’s top travel bloggers have joined the Jouberts’ cause to save #JustOneRhino. Over 20 sponsors have also signed up to give away more than $30,000 worth of travel prizes, such as resort stays, tours and exciting adventures in dozens of countries. According to a recent press release posted by supporters of the #JustOneRhino campaign, “Every donor to the TravelersBuildingChange.org site earns chances at winning incredible prizes, including a safari in South Africa, a Galapagos Islands cruise and stays at luxury resorts in Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. The Jouberts are also offering #JustOneRhino donors additional incentives, such as origami rhinos and downloads of their wildlife photos.” The campaign ends March 1 and even though the #JustOneRhino hashtag has already reached nearly 4 million people on Twitter, there is still much more that needs to be donated.

Photo Credit: Bret Love.

Even with so much left to do, Jeremy Scott Foster was able to spare a few minutes to answer our questions about the campaign and what it would take to save the African rhino.

Why spearhead a campaign like #JustOneRhino?

The idea behind Travelers Building Change is to support the communities which have nurtured people on their travels. Last year we raised money for elephants in Thailand and this year we’re supporting rhinos in Africa. Both places have been highly affected by tourism and, with so much to lose (we’re talking about an entire species, here), we knew that rhinos had to be the focus of our campaign this year.

Was there a personal reason that prompted your interest and involvement?

I actually began working on this project for some more personal reasons. I was feeling entirely overwhelmed by the amount of kindnesses that I was experiencing, time and time again, on my travels around the world. When nobody ever asked for anything in return, I knew I had to take it into my own hands in order to pay these kindnesses forward. So I started a charity project and, over the past three years, it has evolved into what you see today.

Why does it cost so much to translocate a single rhino? What does the process involve?

The translocation process is actually quite involved. 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 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. In total, the whole process costs $45,000.

Photo Credit: Susan Portnoy.

What makes Botswana so much safer than South Africa? What is stopping poachers from moving there and doing the same thing?

Much of the relocation has to do with “spreading the risk.” Moving rhinos to another location makes it much harder for poaching units to come in and hit large numbers of animals at one time. Not only does South Africa hold 80% of Africa’s rhino population, but they have some of the most liberal poaching laws on the whole continent. The translocation helps to spread the assets and into areas where poaching is a much more difficult undertaking.

There are extremely stringent anti-poaching laws in Botswana, which do not exist in South Africa. The anti-poaching units, who operate on the ground in Botswana, function under a shoot-to-kill policy in which any uncooperative poacher is treated as an aggressive military threat. This should be a major deterrent to any poachers hoping to hunt in Botswana.

What kind of progress has #JustOneRhino seen so far? What will it take to become a reality?

The #JustOneRhino is a smaller project in a much larger fundraising effort. We still have a ways to go before we meet our goal of raising $45,000 to translocate #JustOneRhino, but every dollar counts. Rhinos Without Borders, the organization that we are raising money for, is hoping to raise $8 million toward the relocation of 100 rhinos in the year 2015. By the end of 2016, they’re hoping to have moved 500.

Apart from donating to causes like this one, what else can travelers do to fight against poaching?

The truth is that donations are the only thing that will help right now. The rhino situation is critical and, although raising awareness is extremely valuable in its own right, there simply isn’t enough time for that to be our only recourse. One rhino is being killed every seven hours. 50 years ago there were 500,000 black rhinos in Africa, and now there are only 5,000. If there isn’t drastic intervention, the end of the rhino is a very real possibility and it takes place within our lifetime.

If you are interested in being a part of the #JustOneRhino campaign, visit TravelersBuildingChange.org. No donation is too small.

February 10, 2015
Credit: Bret Love, Green Global Travel.

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