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A Rhinoceros Revolution In Dubai

19 June, 2016
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If you were to walk down the street in Dubai, rhinoceroses might not be the first thing on your mind. But it is the home of Rhino Revolution Dubai, an initiative created by Dubai resident Patsy Stagmans. Three years ago, alarmed by the dwindling number of rhinos and the increasing number of global poachers, Stagmans founded the awareness and advocacy initiative with a base camp in South Africa.

"I have always been involved in conservation, and have a home near Kruger National Park in South Africa," Stagmans told BECAUSE. "and why not [do this work in] Dubai?" she added. "This is a global problem that requires global awareness. Rhinos may be in Africa or India or Nepal but the purchasers are all over the world and so are consumers!"

Today rhinos are amongst the world's most endangered species; particularly Javan rhinos that today only have a population of around 60. According to Stagmans a rhino is poached for their horn every eight hours and their horn could be being sold on the street within less than three days; the average full grown horn could be sold for as much as US $300,000 due to the expansive medical trade in Asia, where it is believed that the horn holds medicinal value and can cure everything from cancer to hangovers. 

"For decades now, Dubai has become a centre for world trading, so here I can reach multiple audiences," Stagmans said. Now in its third year, Rhino Revolution Dubai has around forty volunteers who work to spread awareness of poaching and the consequences it will have on ecosystems and the world. The group works primarily with children accessing them through multiple schools in Dubai, under the premise that each child educates an entire family.

"We visit schools of all descriptions and give activities and presentations to three to eighteen year-olds about the plight of rhinos. We have also recently released a fictional children's book called Ubuntu-Summer of the Rhino; a story set between Dubai and Africa that traces the dangers and consequences of the poaching industry," she elaborated.

As a way to reduce demand for the trade and shut down these poachers, rhinorevolutiondubai is also a firm advocate for dehorning. The group works to collect charitable donations to fund the initiative through their base camp in South Africa, as they believe it is the best way to deter the poaching. 

"A rhino's horn is worth more than gold; ounce for ounce a rhino's horn is far more valuable," Stagmans explained. "The horn grows back and is painlessly removed once the rhinos are darted from a helicopter above. The reality is that there is so much money in selling these horns that poachers are happy to slaughter the rhinos for nothing more than a horn stump, which is why even rhino calves or those with underdeveloped horns are still being poached!"

As well as their dehorning initiative, Rhino Revolution dDubai also provides crucial anti-poaching equipment to nature preserves, including night vision goggles and boots in addition to veterinary support for injured rhinos that have been lucky enough to survive their poachers.

"Often female rhinos with small calves are targeted. Without its mother, the calf will die from starvation and predators. These calves need intense support initially from veterinary staff," said Stagmans. As the rhinos grow they are released back into the wild, after a minimum of human contact so that they do not become too unwary. 

Additional chapters of Stagmans' rhino revolution are in the works for the USA and the UK.

"We will go wherever we see there is a need for people to be educated," Stagmans said. "The fight for extinction is real and we only have between five to ten years to turn it around before rhinos are gone forever. We already have several species that are down to just two or three, with the rest closely following. It's our job to protect these exceptional creatures so that they are around for generations to come."

Image: Ting Chen / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tags MENA Because NGO social enterprise CSR rhinoeroces conservation animal preserves South Africa rhino horn