Michael Grover: Saving South African Rhinos with modern ingenuity.

Photo courtesy of Michael Grover

Photo courtesy of Michael Grover

Currently, in South Africa, hundreds of rhino’s are being unlawfully, inhumanely, and immorally poached. The war against rhino poachers is incredibly pressing as more than 600 rhinos have been lost to poaching in South Africa in 2010 and 2011. In recent years, many conventional methods have been attempted to prevent the poaching of rhinos; however, these methods have not succeeded. In response, an innovative solution called the Rhino Rescue Project is using an “out-of-the-box solution to an out-of-control problem.”

Michael Grover’s work with the Rhino Rescue Project has undeniably transformed the war against poaching. As one of the winners of CoalitionWILD’s 2013 Wilder World Challenge, Grover has been awarded the opportunity to fly to Salamanca, Spain to participate in the World Wilderness Congress in October. Grover will also have the opportunity to present his work on a global platform to delegates from around the world. His presence at the conference will highlight how a new generation of conservation leaders is making a positive impact on our world. Grover’s dedication, ingenuity, and resolute efforts in South Africa are a testament to his conservationist lifestyle. We are pleased to feature Michael Grover as one of the winners of CoalitionWILD’s 2013 Wilder World Challenge!

In order to create a wilder world, Grover and the Rhino Rescue Project team use an intricate data analysis system. Those involved with the project have started using smart phone applications to record information about where rhino carcasses are, identify the direction of the poachers’ footprints, and determine how the poachers accessed the rhino. This data is then analyzed to develop important information about poachers and is sent to the anti-poaching team. Creating a detailed profile of potential poachers allows for the anti-poacher team to recognize certain trends and react to any suspicious activity. The development of early warning systems is vital in protecting the South African Rhino from poachers.

Another interesting initiative of the Rhino Rescue Project is using indelible dye in rhino horns. The process of tainting the poachers’ loot is similar to dye used in the banking industry to stain stolen money. Treating rhino horns with this dye ensures that the horn will be visible in an x-ray scanner, even when ground into a fine powder. This means that, at airport checkpoints, security will be able to detect the horn and report the poachers’ illegal activity. In addition, the poisonous dye that is infused into the horn destroys all market value and does not allow poachers to make a profit.

Grover works closely with the Rhino Rescue Project team when they perform the infusion. He is responsible for the monitoring of the rhino and determining which animals need to be infused. These efforts are changing the way Grover and the Rhino Rescue Project “do conservation” and serves to discourage poachers from killing rhinos. It is a simple, yet effective, premise: a poacher will have no reason to hunt rhinos if there is no value in the horn.

Grover’s project seeks to ensure rhino’s can live naturally in their habitat with limited human interference. Creating a wilder world means being able to view rhino’s in their natural environment rather than in a zoo or guarded enclosure. The Rhino Rescue Project, on the surface, protects the well-being of rhino’s but also ensures that viewing rhino’s can still occur naturally. Being able to see these creatures in the wild is an incredible experience and protecting the rhinos is the only way to sustain this. Ensuring rhinos are safe and respected when they do encounter humans is vital in protecting this species.

Grover suggests that the ideal “wilder world” requires “a large expanse of untouched land where nature is left to do her own thing.” Essentially, Grover hopes to see a world where human interference with nature is as limited as possible. The system of nature should have the opportunity to run its course and too much human involvement interferes with this process. Grover adds: “We have to accept that we are part of nature and learn that nature’s systems are perfect. We should fit into her system rather than forcing her to fit into our system.”

Grover’s work in South Africa will hopefully lead to saving the South African rhino. Moreover, Grover hopes that all conservationists will eventually adopt the Rhino Rescue Project’s initiatives. Maintaining natural ecological systems and respecting nature’s process is vital in creating a wilder world. We admire Michael Grover’s dedication and commitment to conservation. Congratulations on winning CoalitionWILD’s Wilder World Challenge!