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Every Rhinoceros Matters, Whether #JustOneRhino or Another

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 24 January 2015

This post is written as our contribution to the #JustOneRhino fundraising campaign. It benefits the ambitious and very expensive Rhinos Without Borders goal of translocating no fewer than 100 rhinoceros from South Africa to Botswana by mid-2015. For more about the #JustOneRhino campaign, including how you can make a donation and the $30,000 in raffle prizes on offer to all generous benefactors, please see below.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary road sign, Uganda

The only roadside clue that, hidden deep in the bush, is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the home to Uganda’s only rhinoceros. Photo courtesy of Ethan Gelber

There’s one place in Uganda where the rhinoceros can feel safe. Called the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, it has one bluntly-stated goal: to repopulate Uganda’s national parks with rhinoceros. At present, these 7,000 hectares (27 square miles) are home to the country’s only rhinos – 15 of them, nine born at the sanctuary to six animals translocated here in 2004 and 2005.

It’s hard to imagine that Uganda once teemed with these magnificent beasts, hunted to the brink of global extinction for no better reason than that their horns can be sold (at around $65,000 per kilogram!) for use in Chinese remedies and as the hilts of traditional Yemeni daggers. In fact, Uganda was once the only East African nation with both black and white rhinos, herds of the former grazing in the west while large groups of the latter lounged on the White Nile’s eastern shores. But while rhino populations had already suffered from hunting during the British colonial period, it was during the 1970s – Idi Amin’s disastrous years in power – that the remaining small herds were reduced from around 100 white and 300 black rhinos in northern Uganda to just a handful. By the early 1980s, there was not a single one left. Not one.

Which brings us back to today – more than 30 years later and following the Rhino Fund Uganda’s efforts to help reverse the decimation occurring all across Africa and Asia.

Old and young rhinos by water

The majesty of rhinos, old and young. Photo courtesy Susan Portnoy/The Insatiable Traveler-

Stymied, But for Good Reasons

On a very recent trip to Uganda, I planned to stop by Ziwa and learn about its rhinos and some of its nature-based activities and programs, like birdwatching along four established trails through woodlands, swamp and savannah habitats; guided nature hikes to learn about flora and fauna; and, especially, rhino tracking on foot “to watch these endangered, magnificent creatures doing what rhino do in their natural habitat.” For nothing more than sentimental reasons, I’d hoped to lay eyes on Obama, the first rhino born in Uganda since their elimination in the 1980s (and, like his namesake, the son of an American mother and Kenyan father).

Sadly, and for reasons not fully understood, although we were expected to visit, we never got beyond the front gate. With persistence, we would certainly have been admitted, but time was short (we had to catch a flight that evening) so we licked our wounds and retreated.

While disappointed at not having been able to see things with my own eyes, I had to admire the security’s care to err on the side of caution. While we looked like pretty typical travelers, people should not be welcomed to a facility like this without proper authorizations. After all, the wanton slaughter of these animals is what got us into this predicament. Worse, despite major community-based efforts all across the continent to sensitize locals to the plight of the rhino and educate about the long-term benefits of rhino conservation, not to mention international media campaigns to squash the illegal trade in rhino horn, the decimation continues.

A rhino in profile at sunset

If we act in time, we won’t have to witness the sunset of the rhinoceros in Africa. Photo by Beverly Joubert

In South Africa alone, a country particularly beset by rhino poaching, the year-on-year increase in the number of rhino poaching deaths has been appalling. From 2010, when 333 deaths were recorded, the total has climbed to more than 1,020 (the number recorded through November 23) in 2014. That said, after annual increases in deaths of between 35 and 50%, only in 2014 does the increase appear to have slowed, although we won’t know for sure until the final numbers have been tallied.

Keeping Rhinos Safe

Today, despite community outreach, better policing and an increase in the number of poaching arrests in South Africa, the mass murder of the rhinoceros continues. That is why the translocations to and births in protected environments in countries with a better handle on animal protection are so critical.

The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda is just one of a growing number of places all across Africa set aside as safe zones for animals in need of our protection. Many of the rhino sanctuaries in Africa, for example, are privately managed by affluent individuals in the continent’s wealthier countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania.

But that doesn’t make the push to step up efforts any less urgent. And that is the value of the Rhinos Without Borders campaign to translocate rhinos from South Africa to Botswana, led by naturalists acclaimed for spearheading National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. The focus on Botswana as fair haven is for a very good reason: the country has low poaching rates and is committed to assembling a “Tusk Force” of trained military and rangers to enforce shoot-to-kill orders against poachers.

Two white rhinos in Botswana

Two white rhinos live in the relative security of Botswana. Photo by Beverly Joubert

The decision by the non-profit, blogger-driven Travelers Building Change to support this move is a no-brainer. “The rhino poaching situation in Africa is critical and, given the incredibly high cost of saving them, we wanted to focus our efforts on a difficult project that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should,” commented Jeremy Scott Foster, Founder of Travelers Building Change. “With rhinos due to become extinct within the next 20 years, it seemed almost obvious that this was the organization we needed to support.”

The Travel Word is pleased to be part of the structure undergirding this cause. Now is the time to act and we hope you will do so through the #JustOneRhino Campaign we have joined, the details of which follow.

#JustOneRhino Campaign

The #JustOneRhino Campaign is a collaborative effort supported by more than 120 of the world’s top travel bloggers to raise $45,000 – the cost of translocating #JustOneRhino through the Rhinos Without Borders.

The primary players in this fundraising effort are: you. We’re asking you to donate.

To inspire your generosity, Green Travel Media joined forces with Travelers Building Change to make available more than $30,000 worth of fantastic prizes. By donating to #JustOneRhino through Travelers Building Change, you receive raffle entries that put you in the running for any of the more than 20 prizes, including travel opportunities in 10 different countries spanning five continents. As little as $20 donated will earn you 10 raffle entries, $30 earns 20, $50 earns 30 and plenty more for plenty more.

JustOneRhino Sponsor Graphic

The top prizes include:
* a 10-day Galapagos trip for one ($5,298 value) with International Expeditions – see full trip details
* a South Africa Big Five Safari in Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal (plus a swag bag) for two people ($5000 value) with Adventure Life – see full trip details
* a seven-night bed-and-breakfast stay in a Garden View suite at Cobblers Cove Hotel, Barbados ($5,187 value)
* a 10-night stay and wellness package for two people at Yemaya Island Hideaway and Spa on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua ($5,241 value)
* five getaways for two in Asia from Secret Retreats, including a voucher for two people at Bali Jiwa Villain in Bali, Indonesia ($1,000 value); two vouchers for two people at The Scent Hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand ($1,500 value for each two-person package); a voucher for two people at 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, Koh Kong, Cambodia ($900 value); and a voucher for two people at Flower Island, Palawan, Philippines ($900 value).

Other small prizes include eBag Luggage, WeWOOD watches, dinner/brunch cruises, two nights in an Italian villa, two tours in India and an ExOfficio Gift Certificate, as well as origami rhinos, wallpaper downloads and more for everyone who makes a donation.

Please visit Travelers Building Change now and make your donation! The rhinos are counting on us. If we won’t stand up for them, who will?

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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Africa, animal conservation, Botswana, Eastern Africa, ecotours, game reserves, safaris, South Africa, Southern Africa, Uganda, whl.travel,

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