Kelly Russo and the
International Rhino Foundation
There are fewer than 30,000 rhinos left roaming the wild. And those numbers are dwindling.
One rhino poached every eight hours
We caught up with Kelly Russo, the Communications Manager for the International Rhino Foundation, a conservation group which aims to preserve and spread the word about all five living rhino species.
Right now, their work is critical. The facts and figures aren’t promising, and things are headed in a dire direction. According to their website, rhinos.org, there are fewer than 30,000 rhinos left roaming the wild. And those numbers are dwindling. “We lose a rhino every eight hours to poaching. In Asia it’s habitat fragmentation. Urbanization is causing the areas for rhinos to shrink,” Kelly says.
The foundation focuses on raising awareness through social media and email marketing campaigns. They also try to do a huge push in awareness for world rhino day (September 22nd, for those wondering). Both fundraising and information are their goals. The best part? Anyone can chip in to help.
Any progress is progress
Progress is certainly slow, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t moving forward. “The most rewarding thing is seeing progress being made. Even if it means just getting people more aware...that alone can make a huge impact on these animals and the environment they call home.”
In a perfect world? All five rhino species are saved from habitat fragmentation and poaching. Though it’s unlikely, Kelly says she wouldn’t abandon her conservation attitude if she completes her mission: “...if not rhinos, it’d be another animal species cause that needs my help. I don’t think I could sit at home and not try to make a change in the world.” Kelly’s first time coming face to face with these creatures was a memorable mixture of excitement and intimidation. How does Kelly translate those moments into help at home?
Spread the word
What can the average person do all the way back in the United States if they aren’t on the front lines? Kelly’s approach with the foundation is twofold. One is conservation research and on the ground protection, and the other, targeted at consumers, is communication: “The simplest thing you can do is just share the message. If you tell your friends, people will just become more educated about these things.”
Though the usual tactics help sway public opinion and awareness, it’s not always a pleasant picture. Kelly says, “it’s a challenge to get across the urgency of the situation without showing the gruesome side of rhino conservancy. That this is happening right now while you’re at work or sitting home with your family. And it’s not just rhinos. These terrible things are happening...to gorillas, to lions, to many animals.”
Yet Kelly remains optimistic about the mission of the International Rhino Foundation and the organizations they work with abroad. “We try to focus on the good. We have to look on the bright side because it can be easy to lose hope.”
Which FactSumo deck caught Kelly’s interest? She loved Why Hyenas Laugh (which you can find below) because she says it’s important to understand the biology of the animals you’re helping to save.
Consider donating to The International Rhino Foundation at rhinos.org/give!