Last month, I found myself in a part of London I don’t usually frequent (Mayfair) at an event for a cause that couldn’t be more important: I was at a charity fundraiser for the organisation Helping Rhinos.
For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m very particular about the charities I support. I grew up in Kenya and have seen first-hand the depletion of its wildlife and so I think I’ve lost count of the amount of rhinos and elephants I’ve adopted and sponsored over the years. Having been lucky enough to grow up seeing these amazing creatures pretty much every time I went on safari, I still can’t quite believe how scarce they are now, and it’s horrible to think that give them another couple of decades and they might be a thing of the past.
Poaching levels have increased dramatically, with elephant tusks and rhino horns being shipped to places such as China and Vietnam where they are used for everything from medicinal concoctions to decorative pieces. Firstly, let me make one thing clear – rhino horns are made of keratin which is the same protein found in your hair and nails, meaning that these so-called healing properties they are meant to contain are non-existent. Unfortunately, there are still people who believe these marketing ploys, and hence there is still quite a market for rhino horns. Speaking at the event, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Richard Vigne made the point that those in the trade would like to see extinction happen, as it will help skyrocket their prices and generate income. We can’t let that happen.
Currently, the world is losing 3 rhinos a day, equating to over 1000 losses a year. It’s heart- breaking. This is the reason that charities such as Helping Rhinos are so important, not only do they help raise awareness, but a lot of their money goes into educating the local population about wildlife, helping to train rangers, increasing the land for rhinos and general wildlife protection.
The event was fantastic, raising £55,000 for Helping Rhinos and their partner Ol Pejeta. The reception was held in The Royal Institute in a beautiful reception room which resembled a gorgeous old library, and along each of the walls were various organisations selling their wares to help raise money for this incredible cause. After the initial mingling was done, we piled into the theatre to hear from the speakers on their views of the current situation and what we can do to help. The talks ranged from overviews of the situation in East Africa to practical takeaways that we can implement in the UK. The speakers included the TV wildlife presenters Giles Clark and Simon King who focussed their talks on the way extinction works and how doing small things such as investing in organic produce makes a difference to wildlife from the ground up.
The evening ended with an auction, and here it was clear that the real money would be raised and I definitely gained insight into how the other side lived. The auction was a lot more exciting than I thought it would be, having never really been to one before. There were lots of things up for grabs including signed photographs from David Attenborough and Chris Froome and several pieces of artwork. At several points, I had to almost sit on my hands to ensure that I didn’t have an involuntary muscle spasm which would result in my bidding for something way out of my price range.
Events like this don’t happen every week, but when they do – they leave a powerful mark. No-one wants to sit there and hear how one of the most majestic creatures in the world is being brutally reduced, but then again, it’s not an easy war we are waging. The silver lining is that you don’t have to be one of the people in the auction spending thousands of pounds to make a difference – there are small ways that you can help. You can adopt a rhino or sponsor a ranger or you can simply donate and know that your money is going to help protect a species from extinction.