Raoul du Toit is a Zimbabwe rhino conservationist who has helped to keep the few critically endangered black rhinos there alive. Their habitat is shrinking and poaching is a constant pressure as rhino horn powder now reportedly sells for $50,000 per kilogram.
Demand is driven by the false notion that rhino horn has medicinal properties; it is really mostly keratin, a protein also in human fingernails and hair. The demand is so voracious and obsessive that the number of black rhinos in Africa may be down to 3,000, from over 65,000 in the 1960s.
Zimbabwe is home to the fourth largest rhino population. Du Toit works in the southern part of the country, and has established the Lowveld Rhino Trust with help from the International Rhino Foundation. He has helped protect 350 black rhinos in southern Zimbabwe, particularly made difficult by economic volatility and political upheaval which increased poaching. He established the Lowveld Rhino Trust to help secure larger parcels of wild habitat–areas that currently make life possible for about 80 percent of the country’s wild rhinos. As a result of his efforts, only 21 rhinos were killed in the area where he works in 2010, down from 79 in 2009.
For his dedication and heroic efforts, he has been awarded a Goldman Prize, which is one of the most coveted environmental awards. Besides recognition as a winner, his organization will receive $150,000 for the continued fight against illegal rhino poaching and protecting their habitat.
He said, “Conserving rhinos saves much more than the rhino themselves–they are flagships for biodiversity and for national development based upon sustainable wildlife management in Africa.” (Source: Goldmanprize.org)
Image Credit: Ikiwaner