Monday, April 13, 2015

Help Protect African Rhinos! (A Guest Post)

by Celia Hein

South Africa is a hotspot for rhino poaching, which is at an all-time high. Rhinos are critically endangered, and in South Africa alone, 1,215 were killed in 2014, which is one dead every 8 hours. South Africa is home to about 70% of the world’s remaining rhinos, and poaching has turned into a highly organized crime syndicate. In many cases, poachers use high-powered rifles, helicopters, and chainsaws. Many of them have had previous military training, and they’re turning our planet’s few precious wildlands into warzones. The park I visited is next on their list.

My name is Celia Hein, and I am studying Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP). Earlier this year, professors and faculty from UWSP and Rhodes University, South Africa led an amazing group of wildlife ecology students (including me!) on a South African Wildlife Ecology course to study in the field and collect data for research in national parks. During this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, we were lucky enough to spend over a week living in one of these parks.

The park is over 45,000 hectares in area (450 square km or 174 square miles) and houses one of the world’s largest remaining populations of black rhinos. We spent several days with the park manager, who shall remain anonymous for privacy reasons, and discovered that at the park they have to maintain their field equipment, fencing, and pay their dedicated staff of over 100 members with an annual budget of only about 10,000 US dollars! The poachers are better equipped than the park rangers. These brave park rangers are undermanned and outgunned, yet all these professionals we met were so passionate, dedicated, and hopeful. I admire their courage. Many work 10+ hour days in the field, risking their lives, and many of them do not have essential gear like binoculars, flashlights, headlamps, or digital cameras. Many of them do not even have proper boots, let alone a firearm to protect themselves and their rhinos, which are predicted to disappear from our world in about 10 years.

Notice there are no rhinos in this photo of the park. Hacking GPS coordinates
from photos is the #1 way poachers find rhinos. Photo by Celia Hein.
We are doing a used equipment drive and an online fundraiser to supply the rangers of the park. We'll take anything! Flashlights, headlamps, binoculars, sunglasses, hats, GPS, cameras, old backpacks, camping gear, etc. If you want to donate equipment, you can mail it to:

Susan Schuller
403 LRC, WCEE, UW-Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI 54481

And if you would like to donate money, go here. Please donate to help improve security to protect our rhinos, rangers, and wildlands. 100% of your donation will go directly to this park! And please share on Facebook or email to help spread the word.

Thank you so much!

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