Friday, August 5, 2011

International Rhino Foundation: Protecting the Rhinos of the world

International Rhino Foundation logo
The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) was founded over 20 years ago to combat black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis poaching.  The foundation's black rhino work has been so successful (poaching was nearly eliminated) that the foundation soon expanded their activities towards all five species of rhinoceros.  The foundation is and always has been run almost entirely by volunteer labor, composing field biologists, zoo employees, and conservation biologists, but also a handful of paid employees who manage any daily requirements.  The foundation's partners include the American Association of Zoo Keepers, many zoos, and a mix of business interests, foundations and conservation organizations, which all protect all rhino species together.

Sumatran rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
This hairy rhino ( extinct woolly rhino's closest living relative) is now only found within Indonesia and Malaysia (and possibly Myanmar) and numbers only ~200 animals globally, scattered through four fragmented populations.  Sumatran rhinos only exist inside areas supplying intensive management and active anti-poaching teams and rhino numbers are still dropping rapidly.  The foundation supports 13 anti-poaching teams, which has essentially stopped all poaching where they are stationed.  During patrols, the teams also collect data concerning the native animals they protect, which provides valuable research regarding these and other native endangered species.
Rare footage of Javan rhinos
Javan rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus
Javan rhinos are the rarest rhino species; only 27-44 animals remaining and can currently only be found inside Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park.  The foundation funds three anti-poaching teams, and since those teams have been present (1998) not a single rhino has been lost through poaching.
Charging greater one-horned rhino protecting her calf- what amazing speed for such a large animal!
Greater one-horned rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis
Although this rhino species numbered only ~200 individuals during the early 20th century, extensive protection efforts have brought greater one-horned rhino numbers up over 2,800 individuals today withinin India and Nepal.  The IRF is currently increasing this rhino's numbers through translocating individuals which reintroduce new rhino populations.
White rhino footage
White rhinoceros Ceratotherium simum
The white rhino (not named because it is white; the Africaans word "weit", which = "wide", is the name's origin, because the white rhino has a wide mouth unlike the black rhino's pointed mouth.  English folk misunderstood what the rhinos were called and the name stuck.) is the most abundant rhino species (although one white rhino subspecies, the Northern white rhino, also has the lowest numbers left of any rhino: the Northern white rhinoceros is extinct in the wild- the last ones were poached during the late 2000's- and only seven animals are left alive globally;  1 pair is at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, a single animal- its mate recently died- is at Dvůr Králové Zoo, and four at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy which live a semi-wild existence, but under continual surveillance and protection inside large enclosures).  Southern black rhinoceros were ~200 animals around 1900, but they now number ~20,000 animals- more individuals than all other rhino species combined.
Black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis
Black rhinos are not the rarest rhino species, but have undergone the largest population decline.  Between 1970 and 1992 the black rhino population dropped 96%- use thThomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© and see that a 96% population reduction = all North & South American, African, Australian, Antarctic, and European humans die, including all people throughout Asia except Indonesia & Malaysia.  Fortunately the IRF brought poaching levels down dramatically, and the population rebounded; a 2,300 animal low is now more than 4,200 animals today.

The IRF has done much crucial work over the years; they protect rhino populations, educate locals regarding rhinos' importance, fund research, coordinate conservation strategies, and so much more.  Unfortunately, there has been a massive poaching increase the past few years since Asian crime syndicates have gotten heavily involved in the financially lucrative rhino horn poaching and smuggling trade.  The crime syndicates are well financed and have provided helicopters, advanced weaponry, and other advanced technology to well-trained professional teams who enter the protected areas, locate and kill rhinos, evade or kill any rangers, and leave quickly.  Rhino horn smuggling has become so lucrative that protected, secure European museums are reporting rhino horn thefts.  Now more than ever rhinos needs help if they will survive.  The International Rhino Foundation could use any help you can offer, before the Asian black market exterminates them all for aphrodisiacs and traditional fever reduction medicines.  Do consider supporting the IRF any way you can- they have an uphill battle against poachers (if high security European museums inside major cities can't protect their rhino horns, imagine how hard protecting animals roaming through third world country wilderness is) but with your help the foundation can make a difference.

Black Rhinos at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya © Thomas Knight zookeeper
I have been incredibly fortunate, and have both worked among zoo rhinos and seen the wild Kenyan black rhinos to the left.  Consider helping the International Rhino Foundation so similar experiences are available for future generations.

Want to see photos or videos of white rhinos?
Want to see photos or videos of black rhinos?
Want to see photos or videos of Javan rhinos?
Want to see photos or videos of Sumatran rhinos?

Want to learn more about rhinos?  Check out the following links/books:

Handbook of the Mammals of the World volume 1
The Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Volume 2 Hoofed Mammals.  This volume will be released in August, and you can rest assured that it will be the top reference book for hoofed mammals as a whole in our lifetime.  The previous volumes on mammals and birds are absolutely amazing.  Pricey but well worth the cost.
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    1. Hi Thomas! I'm a zookeeper and aspiring writer, and I found your blog while searching for other zookeeper blogs. I'm very exciting to explore your site!

    2. I'm looking forward to reading your blog as well, especially about the Alaska Zoo- my home town! There's not nearly enough of us zoo keepers on the internet.

    3. Wow, really? What a small world! Do you know any of the folks who work there now?

    4. You should be recognized by some wildlife community to support your blog. Your post are very good and for a good cause.

    5. @LisaAnn Sadly, I don't know anyone from there now.

      @Reika Thanks, glad you liked it!

    6. I'm just so fascinated by how informative your posts about the rhinos. I do hope this project will be a success and the black rhinos will survive.

    7. Taking care of our endangered species is a great privilege. If I have the chance I would take part of this project free of labor :) Thanks for this wonderful post. I hope the foundation will benefit for this cause.

    8. Hi Thomas,

      I am impressed with your blog for raising awareness to the people. I honestly didn't know most of the foundation you mentioned, so I'm really glad that there are a lot of them even in this very modern times.

    9. Yeah, I didn't even know that there are actually black rhinos left in the wild. This is such a humble deed for you and your foundation. More power to you guys!

    10. Reading your blog is like recalling my Zoology days in college. You are doing a noble job for this kind of campaign. It takes a very dedicated man to do this. Two thumbs up for you.

    11. Everyone of us can start the same cause even at our backyards or garden. It's not just the rhinos that needs to be taken care of. Great project you have here, God bless you.

    12. Taking care of our wild life is really very humbling. I know that you guys have that powerful passion and love for these animals. I salute your concern and effort to these Rhinos. More power to you.

    13. Great to know that there is an organization who cares for animals like the rhinos. I think we need more people like you, it's not just the rhinos there are still more animals that want and need to be cared for.

    14. nice job you do. how is your foundation working?

    15. It's not my foundation, I am just a big fan of the amazing work that they do!

    16. Thanks so much for sharing some review with regards to this organization. Glad to have read some idea on this one.

    17. Its really nice to see that there's a foundation to keep those rhinos from being extinct. I never had a chance to see a real one, with my own eyes.

    18. I adore foundations or movements which have this certain goal of preserving those animals who are fast in getting extinct. It's admirable how they take care of these animals and it's very inspirational. :)

    19. Your Blog is very good, I like it! Thank you for your sharing!

    20. It's a shame that rhinos were hunted down to the edge of extincion, they are so wonderful creatures

    21. really helpful blog doing a great bit of work in saving one of the endangered species among the animals.

    22. Excellent information. This site definitely explains essential concepts to its readers. Thanks for continuing to write such wonderful articles.

    23. "A perfect info source. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic"