For over 40 years Project Rhino KZN has been the leading conservation authority spearheaded by greats like Dr Ian Player and explorer Kingsley Holgate. They have nobly focused on the security and protection of the endangered rhino, but today that’s not enough. Today one needs to breed a culture of conservation amongst the youth and encourage them to look for solutions.
That’s why on the 21st – 23rd September, (falling over World Rhino Day on 21st), 140 teens from over 20 countries worldwide will be invited to assemble at the first World Youth Rhino Summit at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, (the place where the white rhino were first saved years before), to foster understanding and create ownership of our heritage. The group includes a Vietnamese delegation of youth in the hopes that they can go back to their communities and become Global Representatives, changing perceptions. The 15 – 17 year olds will also be given school activities to perform to ensure the longevity of the programme.
The 3 day Summit will have a distinctly African feel and delegates will see rhinos in the wild, the “Operation Rhino” museum, partake in a simulated Rhino security hunting exercise and the final day will include the handing over of the World Youth Wildlife Declaration.
All the while overseen by the experienced “Rhino Elders” such as Dr Ian Player, celebrity wildlife vet Dr William Fowlds, elephant expert and global activist Paula Kahumbu, founder of the Freeland Foundation in Asia, Steve Galster and well-known African explorer Kingsley Holgate.
The mission is to engage youth conservation leaders in rhino/wildlife conservation & protection strategies and empower delegates to become Ambassadors for wildlife & conservation.
The rhino poaching crisis affecting South Africa and smaller African and Asian rhino range states is now recognised as a worldwide wildlife emergency.
The brutal killing of rhinos – particularly in South Africa – is being driven by global criminal syndicates, many with links to international terrorism and narcotics cartels. Wildlife crime has exploded in recent years to meet the increasing demand for rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger products, particularly in Asia: today, it is the fourth most profitable illegal trade in the world after drugs, arms and human trafficking, estimated at US$19 billion annually.
Demand for rhino horn particularly in China and Vietnam has risen over the past four years, where it is seen as a status symbol for the aspirational middle-classes and newly wealthy citizens of these countries, whose economies continue to grow. This, combined with traditional beliefs in its non-existent medicinal properties, has made rhino horn one of the most expensive commodities in the world, outstripping gold, platinum and even cocaine in value.