The resilience of rhinos: Photos capture the world's real-life unicorns
Most of us have seen the internet meme that says "rhinos are just fat unicorns." It's actually a fitting description for an animal whose horn some cultures believe has magical properties. It's because of this, however, that rhinos may too become the stuff of legend.
In the 1800s, there were hundreds of thousands of rhinoceroses in Africa alone. Today, there are less than 30,000 worldwide, with two species classified as "critically endangered." According to a recent special investigation by National Geographic in South Africa, where 70% of the total rhino population resides, the death rate from poaching has increased exponentially in the last few years. In 2007, the country reported 13 rhinos killed; in 2015, it was 1,175.
The demand for rhino horn and the greed of those who will kill to supply it could lead to their extinction within our lifetime.
For World Rhino Day on Sept. 22, wildlife photographers celebrate these magnificent creatures with photos captured in Africa and Asia, and applaud those who fight tirelessly for their survival.
If you want to support rhino conservation, the following organizations could use your help.
Two years ago, award-winning wildlife filmmakers and Great Plains Conservation founders Beverly and Dereck Joubert teamed up with &Beyond, a prominent experiential travel company, to launch Rhinos without Borders. It's an initiative pledging to airlift 100 rhinos out of South Africa, where poaching is at an all-time high, to undisclosed locations in Botswana, where stiff laws provide protection. The costs for flying a multi-ton animal to another country, however, are considerable. Each rhino requires an investment of $45,000 USD to cover vets, vehicles, planes, security and monitoring -- just a few of the many elements required to make translocation a success. To date, 25 rhinos have been moved to their new homes. The team hopes to make it a total of 50 by the first half of 2017.
Based in the United Kingdom, Tusk is relatively unknown in the United States but worthy of attention. For the last 25 years, the organization has made great strides in "conservation, community development and environmental education programs across Africa." Patronized by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the organization works with local communities to protect rhinos by funding surveillance and monitoring teams, training and employment for anti-poaching units, translocation from areas of high risk to safer habitats, and investment in the backup of tracker dogs, vehicles and aircraft.
The World Wildlife Fund has been working to save endangered animals in more than 100 countries for 50 years. Donating to its Adopt a Rhino program is one way you can make a difference -- and give a gift at the same time. A $25 African Rhino Adoption Kit gets your loved one a formal adoption certificate, a 5-by-7 color photo, a rhino spotlight card with great species fun facts, a personalized acknowledgment letter and free priority shipping. Larger adoption packages ($55, $100, $250) contain other goodies, including adorable rhino plush dolls in varying sizes.
While many rhino conservation programs concentrate on initiatives in Africa, Save the Rhino's mission is to see "all five rhino species thriving in the wild for future generations." Like Tusk, Save the Rhino works with partners to fund initiatives in Africa and Asia, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, India and Indonesia. In Vietnam, a strong market for rhino horn, one program focuses on getting major influencers to participate in campaigns to inspire a reduction in consumer demand.