What started out as one man’s vision to help rhinos has become a conservation success. Since its launch in 2012, Helping Rhinos has grown into an international organisation, with its headquarters in the UK and branches in the USA and the Netherlands. Over the last ten years it has raised over £2.25m and has built partnerships and credibility in the field, making protecting rhinos in their natural habitat its primary goal.
There’s always a catalyst that drives the desire for change and action. For Simon Jones, CEO of Helping Rhinos it was the shocking poaching of three rhino at the Kariega Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in March 2012.
Only one of those three rhino survived that night: Thandi, a female white rhino who had endured the most horrific injuries. Ten years on, Thandi is a miracle rhino, not only bravely dealing with the many operations and procedures it took to piece together her ravaged face but going on to produce four calves. Today she embodies just how important rhino conservation is and why we must continue to work hard to protect all rhinos.
But her poaching also led to another success story: the creation of Helping Rhinos. Two years prior to Thandi’s poaching, Simon had spent six weeks on a conservation project at the Kariega Game Reserve and like most of the rhino on the Reserve, he’d got to know Thandi. When he learnt of the devastating results of the fateful night, Simon knew he had to do something.
Simon founded the charity Helping Rhinos shortly afterwards with the goal to help end the suffering of rhino. What started as blank piece of paper and a strong determination has blossomed ten years on into a very successful charity supporting essential conservation projects for rhinos on the ground.
Simon’s depth of experience in both the charity and business sectors, combined with his passion for wildlife conservation, in particular the rhino, has meant that he could effectively lead Helping Rhinos in its growth through growing brand awareness, creating partnerships in Africa and increasing revenue year on year, raising over £2.25m to date. All of this has helped the organisation see tangible results in its goal to protect rhino in the wild.
“I had a passion for wanting to get involved with wildlife in their natural habitat and protecting that, and the rhino has always been close to my heart.
“I'm incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, and most importantly, the work we have carried out with our partners and teams on the ground to help keep rhinos safe and protected in their natural habitat.”
As we move into the next decade, and beyond, we must and we will achieve success in terms of the rewilding and restoring of wild spaces."
CEO, Helping Rhinos.
HELPING RHINOS: HOW FAR WE’VE COME
With its holistic and innovative approach to rhino conservation, Helping Rhinos has gone from strength to strength over the last decade, focussing on improving the protection, care and welfare of the rhino in its natural habitat, and forging many significant partnerships with successful organisations on the ground.
They have supported anti-poaching operations to protect the largest population of black rhino in East and Central Africa, as well as funding the provision of a fully equipped mobile veterinary unit to provide timely treatment to injured rhino and other wildlife on Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Through highly successful fundraising events with Ol Pejeta, Helping Rhinos has contributed to ground-breaking scientific research into saving the northern white rhino through the use of IVF. With only two females left, this sub species is considered to be ‘functionally extinct’, but thanks to the work of a global team of scientists and conservationists, 14 embryos have been created in the race to save a species.
In South Africa, they have provided operational support to the ‘Eyes in the Sky’ aerial surveillance programme, protecting a number of Reserves on the Eastern Cape. The consistent presence of small planes in the air over game reserves offers a significant deterrent to potential poachers, improves patrols and enables faster incident response. The use of these ‘Eyes in the Sky’ has seen significant results.
Alongside the Zululand Conservation Trust, Helping Rhinos set up the Zululand Rhino Orphanage in 2017. As the only dedicated rhino orphanage facility in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the orphanage provides 24-hour care to rhino calves that have lost their mothers through poaching. The generous donations of supporters and the popularity of the rhino orphan adoption programme run by Helping Rhinos, has meant that the orphanage’s facilities have been expanded and eight orphans have been successfully rewilded since 2019. The release of these rhino orphans back into the wild is a tangible result of the support Helping Rhinos gives to rhino conservation in the area.
Helping Rhinos also funds the Black Mambas anti-poaching unit that comprises 36 women who patrol the 50,000 hectares of the Balule Nature Reserve in the Upper Kruger.
These women, with a passion for wildlife and rhino conservation, are also the voice in the community through their conservation work. They provide not only boots on the ground and presence on the frontline, but also through being a role model in their communities, educating and informing communities to understand that there are far greater benefits to them through rhino conservation rather than poaching. Between 2013 and 2020, the Black Mambas had reduced poaching incidents in their area by 63%.
During the lockdowns caused by the pandemic, Helping Rhinos responded urgently in the support of anti-poaching operations on the Eastern Cape. Once lockdowns eased, poaching increased across this area but the income generated from tourism did not increase. Anti-poaching units in the area were stretched to the limit. Through an urgent fundraising appeal, Helping Rhinos is raising funds for 40 radio tracking collars on 40 rhinos in eight different Reserves across the Eastern Cape. This is crucial in helping the Rangers carry out their protection programmes. By identifying the location of collared rhino without the need to extensively patrol the whole of the Reserve, they were able to save precious time and resources.
Most recently, as part of the work Helping Rhinos is doing in local communities across South Africa, they have funded the building of a school in Kwa-Zulu Natal. The building of the Speakman School will lead to the future of a new generation who will protect their land and the wildlife within it.
The success of the last 10 years has made a noticeable difference and could not have been done without the generous donations of Helping Rhinos’ growing number of supporters. Together, the charity and its donors have protected rhinos and aided those at the frontline of conservation.
THE FUTURE: RHINO STRONGHOLDS
Carrying on with its holistic approach to rhino conservation, Helping Rhinos will continue to protect and keep rhinos safe, but there is still more to be done if future generations are able to see rhinos living in the wild.
Collaborating with carefully selected partners, Helping Rhinos next big goal is to create and protect Rhino Strongholds: areas of habitat that will be protected into perpetuity and allow rhino and all other wildlife to thrive.
The rhino is a keystone species, meaning that by protecting rhino and the wild spaces it needs to survive, other species of flora and fauna will also enjoy a more secure future. Continuing to work predominantly in Africa, the goal is to expand wild spaces by working with local communities to restore degraded land and create wildlife corridors.
Local communities will be integral to the success of Rhino Strongholds, which will provide employment opportunities and engage local people in wildlife conservation through education programmes and initiatives that improve livelihoods.
“Whilst it’s important that we look back and reflect on the past, and realise how far we’ve come, it’s really critical that we look forward to the future as we think about projects involving range expansion, and Rhino Strongholds.
As Patron of Helping Rhinos, I am excited to see what we can achieve together in the next 10 years and beyond.
Together we can and will make a difference.”
TV presenter & Conservationist
Patron, Helping Rhinos