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May 10, 2018

The Communities Have Spoken

Felicia and James interviewing a community member
Felicia and James interviewing a community member

Well, we have really done it now! We were in South Africa for five weeks, working non-stop, and I am really happy to say we are done! All told, we have completed 157 individual interviews about the social impact of the Black Mambas Anti-Poaching Unit program – and we have even entered all of them into the data sheet.

When we finished interviewing all the Mamba women who were on duty (29) and all the Transfrontier Africa staff who support and enable the Mambas (8). In the last two weeks, we have completed ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY individual interviews in a total of four different communities where most of the Mambas live!

Our four core research team members come from Helping Rhinos, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, California State University San Marcos, and Romy Suskin Photography. We have greatly benefitted over our visit  by employing the deft, skilled, and patient five Mambas who acted as translators and surveyors in the diversity of languages that exist in South Africa. These fantastic women were able to work between English, Tsonga, Sepedi (Northern Sotho), Zulu, and Afrikaans. The five have amazing language and interpersonal skills – as well as being uncommonly kind and smart. Getting to work with them has been one of the highlights of my professional career.

The community interviews have been amazingly interesting, if a bit disappointing with respect to our main hypothesis. We had hoped to find that the Mambas have changed their communities, but that has not been borne out. There were a few interviewees that have been influenced by the Mambas, but over 90% of the 120 people interviewed didn’t even know of the Mambas when asked.

Based on follow-up discussions with the Mambas, most do not feel comfortable talking about what they do with their community. So, it is not surprising that they are not making the social changes that we had hoped to find. Surprisingly, nearly all of the people who knew of the Mambas were from the Maseke community. What evidently made a difference, among those who knew of them, was the child education initiative that the Black Mambas run called the Bush Babies. The Mambas are reducing public support for poaching, but only through the child education program!

Conservation and rural communities can clearly be a match made in heaven. It was clear that people in the communities looked to conservation for jobs. We heard that more than any other response, and to nearly every question, even when it wasn’t particularly germane. The more that conservation areas can employ people, the better-supported conservation will become. As I said in an earlier blog post, unemployment in this area approaches 40%. Jobs create positive perceptions of conservation.

Another reason for positivity about conservation here in South Africa is that 98% of people interviewed categorically rejected the idea of hunting animals on the reserves, either for money or for food. Most were offended at the very thought of the act. Along roughly similar lines, most people were increasingly supportive of those reserves that were closest to them. They felt pride that “our nature” was being preserved and that people were interested in coming so far to see the animals. And, of course, for the jobs.

So, to celebrate this landmark event of completing such an ambitious series of goals, I took the first - and only - full day off that I took during my trip and went to  tour the awesomeness of Kruger National Park. The jobs that are created by visits such as mine are clearly the reason why these reserves receive such an astonishing level of public support.

I toasted every animal that I see in this Wonder of The World and be grateful for all the jobs that they bring to this area: Mambas and otherwise.

Wonderful and generous people from Acornhoek
Wonderful and generous people from Acornhoek
Collet & Chantal interviewing a Hluvukani woman
Collet & Chantal interviewing a Hluvukani woman
Mar 19, 2018

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

Biking over Arizona
Biking over Arizona
Greetings! 
With 2.5 months of action behind us for 2018, and a lot has happened....
I've already logged over 1200 miles on the trail, all in the name of Rhinos and I have been spreading the word every day!
My Social media following has grown from 8 followers to over 2200! It is refreshing to meet like-minded folks from around the globe, that want to help support this very desperate cause. I have made a point to include educational information about Rhinos on my posts throughout the week. This has proven to be very popular with followers, and I am also learning new information as I go. 
I also have a Pedaling Against Poaching club, set up on Strava, which is 59 members strong at the moment, and growing each day. To date, the members of this club have logged well over 17,000 miles! truly incredible.   
Donations are steadily trickling in, and I have some other irons in the fire that should help to give us a boost. We have a long way to go!
T-shirts and artwork are both available now, and all profits will go directly to help rhinos!
Let's take a stand together, and be the voice for the voiceless!
I'll keep on pedaling...you keep up the support, and keep on spreading the word!
Can't Stop, Won't Stop!
Sincerely, 
Jeff Harrison
Pedaling Against Poaching
Part of the Pedaling Against Poaching Crew
Part of the Pedaling Against Poaching Crew
Ride the Rhino!
Ride the Rhino!
Jeff and the Pedaling Against Poachingmobile
Jeff and the Pedaling Against Poachingmobile

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Feb 14, 2018

Progress is made!

Reducing Demand for Rhino Horn - Curriculum page
Reducing Demand for Rhino Horn - Curriculum page

After a half-year of development and testing, we began our rollout of our efforts to reduce the demand for rhino horns in the United States! This project is empowering 5th through 12th graders to change the perceptions of horn use among their school, family, friends, and community.

The root cause why rhinos are endangered is that there is an inaccurate perception among some users of Traditional Asian Medicine that the horn is of medicinal use. This continues, despite several rigorous studies that have found no medical value in consuming rhino horn. Most consumers of horn either never think about how it is harvested or created (do you ever think about that for the medicine that you consume?) or are unaware that rhinos are typically killed when the horns are harvested.

Similarly, those who are interested in purchasing the horns as investment – currently a very large demand in itself – usually do not think of where the horns come from or that their purchase leads to the brutal slaughter of rhinos.

Children are passionate, receptive to new ideas, and are disproportionately interested in actions that promote pro-environmental causes. In our preliminary experiences working with middle school students over the last half year, they are extremely effective change agents. Once activated through education and empowerment, these students are bulldogs for the good. We feel blessed that the responses from students have been so positive!

To this end, we began the formal rollout of our project by engaging several dozen employees of Sony Pictures Entertainment in Culver City, California. We are fortunate to have received generous funding from the Sony Pictures A Greener World grant program. The first component of this award was to enlist staff to recruit their children’s’ teachers, their friends and neighbors who are teachers, and others to reach out to us to bring our program to their school.

The 49 staff who attended were engaged and creative – little surprise from a group of movie-makers! We are excited as to where this partnership may go as we strive to effectively engage students in reducing demand for rhino horn in Southern California community. All signs are for a great success, and we cannot wait.

If you are a teacher, or know someone who is a teacher, and would like to empower your students to make a real contribution to conservation by helping to reduce demand for rhino horn in the United States, please contact us by email.

If you would like to schedule an assembly, classroom discussion, or virtual visit with Helping Rhinos please also contact us by email. We have scheduled a half dozen already for early March, and have room for many more!

Presentation to Sony Pictures Staff
Presentation to Sony Pictures Staff

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