March 30th, 2014
Explorers Club, LA Chapter. Spoke about the making of Animal Planet’s Battleground: Rhino Wars, which was a three-part series that aired last year. It was shot on location in South Africa with two former Navy SEALs, one retired SEAL, and a Green Beret. The talk was called, Rhino, Poachers and Spec Ops.
While I was asked to share my experience about making the series, I really used it as a window into the plight of the rhino. Their current state is red-lining. One fairly recent report said we could lose the less than 30,000 that are remaining in the wild by 2026. The Western Black Rhino has already recently gone the way of the dinosaur.
What most people don’t realize is that this is a global problem happening in our own backyard. Last May in Los Angeles, a father and son were arrested for both smuggling and running a pyramid that had been feeding the demand for rhino horn for the past several years. Then there was the controversy over a Dallas hunting club selling a permit to kill a black rhino. Reasoning that the rhino was old and cranky, and needed to be separated from the others, so why not sell it as a fundraising hunting permit for conservation. Really??? Don’t put these people in charge of our elderly community… In my mind, we don’t kill what we are trying to protect, period.
If you’re wondering why we should really care about the plight of the rhino, here are two strong motivating reasons:
1) Rhino are an umbrella species. If they go other mammals, reptiles, birds and even plants will be impacted.
2) Profits from poaching have been used to fund rebel groups across Africa as well as global terrorist groups. That’s why Warren Buffet’s son recently donated 24 million to the rhino cause.
So what can you do? Support frontline organizations, who are boots on the ground, going after poachers. One great organization is the International Anti-poaching Foundation (IAPF.org), founded by former Australian Special Forces sniper, Damien Mander. Check out his TED talk on this very subject (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FCsyK4aRXQ). He makes a compelling case.
Next suggestion is to educate the demand market, which is primarily Asia, that there is NO medicinal use for rhino horn. It will not relieve a hang over, nor help your sex life, or cure cancer. There is no medical proof of any of this.
In the words of Jane Goodall, if we kill off our wildlife, we are killing off a part of our souls.
I urge all of us to do, and keep doing, our part to help stem this crisis.