Safari Park guests, school children, celebrities and government officials were among those who celebrated Endangered Species Day at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at a special Rally 4 Rhinos presented by LivingSocial. Rally 4 Rhinos seeks to raise awareness of the plight of rhinos in the wild and the urgent need to protect these iconic endangered species for future generations.
A special Rally 4 Rhinos ceremony took place at the Safari Park’s Hunte Pavilion and opened with a rhino “crash” mob, school children from San Pasqual Union Elementary dancing to a hip-hop “Rhino Romp” created by Flash Mob America. Guest speakers included William C. Woody, Chief of Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who spoke about the challenges of rhino poaching, and Randy Rieches, curator of mammals at the Safari Park, who shared information on San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts and collaboration with the International Rhino Foundation.
“San Diego Zoo Global has been working steadily for decades to help rhinos,” stated Rieches. “Today, we are facing a world where we may lose rhinos. Rhinos are facing the worst poaching crisis in history, with an average of three rhinos a day being killed in South Africa. At the current poaching rate, rhinos could become extinct in 15 years. San Diego Zoo Global is committed to preventing this from happening on our watch. We are asking everyone to spread the word that rhinos need our help – we can all be part of saving a species from extinction.”
To further its commitment to rhino conservation, San Diego Zoo Global announced that a rhino conservation center barn will be built at the Safari Park later this year to house more southern white rhinos, establishing the Safari Park as a sanctuary to protect these rhinos and their offspring until the poaching in Africa can be stopped. Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research also will move forward to explore the science necessary to preserve the genetics of the northern white rhino, and San Diego Zoo Global will continue to support the ban of rhino horn and ivory sales asked for by the proposed bill AB 96.
San Diego Zoo Global currently works with conservation partners to fund ranger training and anti-poaching patrols in parks and reserves where rhinos are found; research is being done on the ecology and behavior of rhinos to determine their needs for survival; and successful breeding programs and reproduction efforts at the Safari Park contribute to assurance populations of rhinos.
The Safari Park is home to Nola, a 41-year-old northern white rhino, one of only five remaining in the world. The Park also is home to southern white rhinos, greater one-horned rhinos and black rhinos. There are five species of rhinos – black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan. With all species together, there are less than 30,000 rhinos worldwide. Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are made of keratin, the same thing as human fingernails and hair.
As part of San Diego Zoo Global’s Rally 4 Rhinos campaign, the public was asked to celebrate Endangered Species Day by spreading the word about rhino poaching, writing a rhino conservation message on their hand, taking a photo, and posting the photo to social media using the hashtag #Rally4Rhinos. The campaign spread like wildfire, reaching around the world, with postings from San Diego, the Eiffel Tower in France, Vietnam, the Parliament building in the U.K., rhino preserves in South Africa, beaches in Brazil and beyond.