This year, World Rhino Day (22 September) will mark yet another tragic milestone in the plight of the rhino.  A record number of rhino have been killed to date, and the carnage continues.
With South Africa as custodian of more than three quarters of the world’s remaining rhino, numerous organisations and government departments are working to help combat the rampant poaching taking place, particularly in the Kruger National Park. The source of the issue, however, remains the unfounded beliefs of the Eastern market on the rhino horn’s medicinal properties. “It is only through a global awareness campaign that we can help change this mind-set,” says Wilderness Foundation director, Andrew Muir. He is calling on the government, public and international organisations to join together to help fight rhino poaching on various different platforms.

One man from the Eastern Cape has taken it upon himself to raise awareness of the rhino’s plight across the USA. Neale Howarth grew up on a game farm, surrounded by wild animals and even helped hand rear a lioness and a baby giraffe.
“Of all the animals I have helped raise, fed and viewed, the rhino remains the most alluring and spectacular. There is something unique about the rhino and the way it goes about its daily business,” says Howarth. This is what inspired him to quit his teaching post at Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) in Grahamstown, sell his business, and head to the USA to spread the word about rhino.
“Rhino are a global treasure and their numbers have collapsed by 95% over the past century. As South Africans, we are desperate to save these magnificent creatures for future generations to enjoy. We have come to realise that we cannot succeed without the efforts and assistance of the global community.”
“I firmly believe that if only a small part of the American youth were given a personal insight onto the value of these wild animals, and guided in ways they could respond, they could make a tangible difference to the crisis we face in Africa. I will target the youth in order to mobilise the technology-driven generation and allow them to spread the word through such avenues as social media.”
The Wilderness Foundation’s Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative is fully in support of Howarth’s mission, and has provided him with educational materials to take to the USA. “We commend him for his passion and drive, and we are sure that he will make a massive impact, raising awareness of the rhino poaching crisis in the US,” says Wilderness Foundation executive director, Andrew Muir.
Howarth believes that the way South Africans tackle the rhino crisis will set a benchmark for future conservation efforts for less ‘iconic’ species. “If an animal with as much popularity as the rhino is lost, how do we save species that are under threat and have no major attention or awareness drives, such as the Stubfoot Toad, the Madagascar Pochard, the Franklin’s bumblebee and the Hula painted frog, animals which most people would hardly ever have heard of?”
Howarth’s journey through the USA began in Washington DC in September, which is also the beginning of the American academic year. He is planning a circular route through all of the states to spread his message as far as possible. He plans to tour for six months until February 2014.