Simon Jones, A Life Dedicated To Helping Rhinos

Simon Jones is the founder and CEO of Helping Rhinos, a charity he established in 2012. Simon’s love for animals began at a very young age. His home in the south of England was often referred to as the ‘local zoo’ as he had a whole range of pets that included dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and even a tortoise to name a few. Simon also rode horses as a child and would often spend early childhood family holidays on working farms looking after the cattle and pigs.

It takes a lot of work and dedication to run a charity like Helping Rhinos. A typical day for Simon would start at around 6:30am with checking the emails that have been received overnight (with an international charity there is no off time!). Once the emails have been reviewed each day can be very different. Some days will be focused on raising funds to help support Helping Rhinos’ work in the field and others will be more focused around the actual work on the ground and talking to the teams across Africa. Before Covid-19 travel restrictions were imposed Simon would spend at least one or two days a week in face to face meetings with supporters and sponsors. Typically, his day ends anywhere between 7pm and 10pm with more email work.

A popular night raising funds for the charity.

The goal of Helping Rhinos is to provide secure and sustainable environments for all species of rhinos to thrive for generations to come.

In the field, Helping Rhinos will establish secure rhino strongholds through the creation of innovative protection strategies, sustainable land management operations that ensure a rich, biodiverse ecosystem and inspiring local communities to proactively engage in rhino conservation.

Around the world Helping Rhinos will ensure sustainable long term rhino conservation by developing a community of interested and engaged people and donors through international education programmes. Furthermore, to develop an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to funding rhino conservation.

Simon knows in order for rhinos to have a chance at long term survival it is vital for the local African communities to realize the importance of saving the species. Without the cooperation of the local population, it would be impossible to help rhinos.

Simon and his team balance the need to protect the land for wildlife and to sustain a human population. They educate local communities about the benefits of keeping land for wildlife by offering meaningful incentives to protect wildlife and help eliminate poaching. For example, the communities surrounding Ol Pejeta Conservancy, one of Helping Rhinos field projects, benefits from the conservancy building new schools, medical dispensaries and the provision of business management skills training. This is a huge incentive for these communities to work closely with the conservancy and to help protect and keep safe their wildlife.

They also fund anti-poaching units. This is key to protecting rhinos. Rangers need to be trained and provided with the best technology to keep themselves and the animals they protect safe. This all takes money.

Helping Rhinos also knows it is important to work with Governments at all levels to encourage them to implement enforceable legislation and effective penalties to deter poachers from killing rhinos. Simon and his group also lobby for the protection of habitat.

One of the hardest parts of running an NGO such as Helping Rhinos is the remoteness of the organisation to the rhinos on the ground.  Simon and his whole team have a huge passion to protect rhinso in their natural habitat, but it can be tough when times are busy and stressful and you are half a world away from the animals and the nature you are trying to protect.

That is why when Simon is in the field these are the most memorable times for him. Simon says there are too many memorable occasions to pick just one, but a few that stand out are the first time he saw rhino poaching survivor Thandi after her attack. Simon had seen Thandi a few years before the attack (and before she even had a name), but to see her just a few months after her face had been hacked off, looking strong was very emotional. Similarly, spending time with Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, just weeks before his passing due to age related conditions was also very emotional. Saying goodbye to Sudan, knowing he wouldn’t ever see him again was very tough. And finally, seeing the strength of character of the rhino orphans, who have survived the loss of their mothers, often having witnessed their brutal slaughter at the hands of poachers, really does give Simon huge inspiration and motivation to keep fighting every day for these majestic animals.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on conservation. The sector relies largely on income from nature-based tourism, which was abruptly turned off overnight and is unlikely to recover until well into 2021.

One upside however is that the poaching of species like rhinos actually significantly reduced during the lockdown period. With international borders closed and domestic travel a lot more difficult to undertake without being noticed, the risk of being left with an illegally procured rhino horn was too big a risk. However, Simon says that the rhino conservation world is bracing itself for a poaching spike now the borders have opened again. Managing this spike if it does materialize will be a bigger challenge than ever with a lack of available resources that’s due to the pandemic.

September 22nd each year is World Rhino Day, but for Simon and his team, every day is rhino day. Every day, they do what they can to help save these beautiful animals. If you would like to learn more about Helping Rhinos, check out their website. There are many ways to get involved, including donating, ‘adopting’ a rhino, running your own fundraising campaign, trying out one of the many fun rhino activities they have, such as colouring sheets, info sheets, learning to draw a rhino!

I personally am so excited to be collaborating with Helping Rhinos. I will be donating 10% of all royalties earned from my picture book, A Family For Faru, to this wonderful group. Please check out their shop. They have so many amazing items for sale, including links to purchase books that support rhino conservation like A Family For Faru.

https://www.helpingrhinos.org/

Episode 26: Kindness Is Saving Sharks

Thirteen-year old Finlay Pringle, joins Anitha to share his passion about sharks.

Sharks have been cruelly misjudged and wrongly considered ruthless predators of the sea. Finlay dispels these myths and tells us the truth about sharks. He also talks about the reasons 100 million sharks are killed every year and why it is so important to save them.

An incredibly eye-opening episode!

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Bite Back Shark and Marine Conservation. To learn about the wonderful work this organization does to protect sharks, click on the link: https://www.bite-back.com

To learn more about the wonderful work Finlay does to help sharks, check out his website: https://ullapoolsharkambassador.com

Episode 24: Kindness Is Childhood Dreams

When she was around seven years old, Olivia Pisano received a huge book all about animals. She loved learning about the animals, especially the whales. This interest in whales continued through elementary school, high school, all the way to her PhD.

Olivia joins Anitha to share her incredible story of connecting her PhD with her passion to help whales.

Olivia talks about her research project to use satellite imagery as a way to keep whales safe. She and Anitha also discuss major threats to the whale population, such as entanglement in fishing gear.

As a thank you to Olivia for sharing her story, Anitha donated to the Canadian Whale Institute. This charity is dedicated to protecting marine mammals and their habitats. To learn more about this group, please click here: https://www.canadianwhaleinstitute.ca

Michelle Kadarusman—Author & Animal Lover

It’s always a joy to meet another author. However, connecting with Michelle Kadarusman was an extra thrill, because not only do we share a love of books and writing, we share a love for animals.

Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Australia with her four siblings. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her mom, now a single mother and raising five kids, didn’t allow the family to have pets.

But this doesn’t appear to have been a hard rule, since Michelle and her siblings still filled their home with strays. To her relief, once the animals were there, her mom fell in love with the new family members as well. Michelle’s menagerie of strays included cats, rabbits and a dog named Charlie.

In 2000 Michelle moved to Canada and adopted her first dog from the Toronto Humane Society. Buddy was a five-year-old beagle mix. Sadly, Buddy died two years later. It happened when Michelle and her children were walking home from school. Buddy saw another dog across the street. He lunged and broke free of his leash, and he got hit by a car.

Devastated by his death, Michelle knew she wanted to bring another dog into their family.

Dogs add colour to our lives,” she says.

In 2003, India, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, joined Michelle’s family, and then seven years later, they adopted Hannah, a shepherd mix rescued from Aruba.

Given her love of animals, it’s no surprise that in 1996, while living in Surabaya, Indonesia, Michelle’s desire to help animals extended beyond rabbits, cats and dogs. She helped rescue an orangutan.

Her brother, Andre, was also in Indonesia at the time. He was working for an Australian construction company based in Jakarta. His work involved travelling to remote areas. At one of those locations he came upon a captive orangutan, held in a tiny cage, who was being used as an attraction at a restaurant.

Michelle’s brother didn’t know what to do. It is illegal in Indonesia to have an orangutan in captivity. But this was before Google and finding a rescue organization to save the orangutan was very difficult.

Michelle’s brother contacted her, wondering if she could help. Michelle had recently had a baby and belonged to a mom’s group. She told the other mothers about the plight of the orangutan. Luckily, one of the women knew someone who volunteered at an orangutan rescue. She promised to contact her friend at the rescue and get back to Michelle.

A couple of weeks passed and then Michelle received a call from the woman at the rescue. They were in the area that day and needed the location of the restaurant.

Michelle scrambled to contact her brother. Fortunately, she was able to speak with him. Even though he didn’t know the exact address of the restaurant, as it was located in a remote village, he was able to provide enough details for the rescue team to find the orangutan.

Thanks to Michelle and her brother, the orangutan was saved and taken to a sanctuary. Her seven years of being held captive in a tiny cage had finally come to an end.

Michelle never learned exactly what happened to the orangutan, but is hopeful that her life was a lot better having been rescued.

Not only is Michelle an animal lover but she is also an author. This incident with the orangutan has been brewing in Michelle’s mind for almost thirty years. She is now working on transforming it into a fictional story. She plans on telling the story from three points of view: the main character is a girl who is a budding activist, a boy whose uncle owns the restaurant where the orangutan was kept, and the orangutan herself.

As she writes, Michelle is cognisant of the complexities involved in dealing with animal conservation in countries such as Indonesia. She is determined not to vilify the restaurant owners. She says that her brother returned to the restaurant after the orangutan was saved and the owners were relieved she had been rescued. They too, wanted a better life for the orangutan but didn’t know how to make that happen.

Michelle is a gifted writer. Her 2019 middle grade novel, Girl of The Southern Sea was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She has written three award- nominated novels. I eagerly await the release of this story based on her real-life experience helping an orangutan.

When asked the question, what is the one thing she would change in the world, Michelle said, “To change the world we have to look at our own actions first. It’s easy to forget to simply be kind. I try and remind myself everyday to lighten my thoughts and just do what I can.

For more information about Michelle, please check out her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/MichelleKadarusmanAuthor

Episode 7: Kindness Is Wishes For Orangutans

In 2007, the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia, granted then ten-year-old Daniel Clarke a wish. They were surprised by his response; he wanted to save the orangutans. Daniel and his brother William talk about their dedication to help one of our closest relatives—the orangutans.

In this incredibly moving episode, Daniel and William, now 24 and 22, respectively, share their story of helping save endangered orangutans from extinction. They even describe the first time they saw an orangutan in the wild.

If you love animals, this episode is for you!

As a thank you for sharing their story of kindness, Anitha donated to The Orangutan Project. This charity was created by Leif Cocks, a world-renowned orangutan expert.

To learn more about Daniel and William and their work to save orangutans, click here: https://tearsinthejungle.com/

To learn more about The Orangutan Project, click here: https://www.orangutan.org.au/

This episode was produced by Stephen Hurley of VoicEd Radio.