For many of us, it is difficult to wrap our minds around the concept of species extinction. We may think of the loss of many unique and wonderful creatures that were hunted into extinction by humans, such as the Tasmanian tiger, the great auk, the dodo, the passenger pigeon, and others who serve as reminders of the mistakes humankind has made.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like we’ve really learned much from these examples and for many animals, extinction is something that may happen within the next decade. Pangolins, a prehistoric mammal native to African, India, and Southeast Asia have walked this planet for 80 million years, yet because over one million have been killed by poachers for their meat and scales in the last decade alone, losing them is a reality we may soon have to face.
The same holds true for another ancient mammal that has roamed this planet for nearly 50 million years, the rhino. At this time, it is estimated that there are 29,000 rhinos remaining in the wild and an average of 1,000 individuals are killed by poachers annually. Of the remaining rhinos, about 90 percent of them live in South Africa, a country where poaching has seen a 9,000 percent increase in just 10 years. In KwaZulu-Natal, a coastal South African province, it’s been estimated that one rhino is killed every 33 hours. If we don’t act to protect them now, we may lose rhinos from the wild within the next 10 years.
Luckily, there are activists working tirelessly to save these animals. For the past few months, Matt Meyer, a South African safari guide, has been biking down the West Coast of the United States to raise awareness for their rapidly declining population.
His 2,000-mile journey, called The Long Ride to Free Them, spans from Canada to Mexico — but he’s not doing it alone. With him, he’s towing a 350-pound rhino replica named “Luna.” On his journey, Meyer has been stopping at schools in order to teach children about the reality rhinos face.
“I don’t have children of my own,” Meyer told The Orange County Register. “But I have nieces and nephews and I couldn’t let them inherit a planet without rhinos.”
You might not think it given the incredible amount of strength and endurance it takes to lug a 350-pound rhino with your bike, but Meyer is also vegan. According to VegNews, the safari guide switched to a plant-based diet after working with animals in South Africa. After that, he realized that the creatures he wanted to protect were no different from farmed animals.
So far, Meyer has raised $100,000 for rhinos — nearly half of his $250,000 goal. To donate to his cause or to learn more about his journey, click here.
Image source: Helping Rhinos/Twitter