“I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to travel to Africa three times over the 7 years. Every time I visited Kenya and Masai Mara, my love for the land, people, and animals grew more and more intense. It absolutely sickens me to know how many Rhino’s we have lost to poaching over the past decade. Change starts with spreading awareness and I am so happy to share more information on the effort being made to help these beautiful animals.” – Chelsea
Most people return from a vacation with some great pictures, a couple souvenirs and amazing memories. But sometimes taking time away from daily life to have a new experience with family and friends can turn into something truly inspirational that changes the course of our life.
In 2007, I traveled to Kenya and fell in love with the country and the animals of east Africa. I learned so much about these animals, specifically rhinos and how they are on the verge of extinction due to illegal poaching. In just the last decade, more than 7-thousand African rhinos have been lost to poaching.
Rhino horn in traditional Asian medicine is believed to cure everything from hangovers to cancer. A horn can be worth as much as $27,000 per pound on the black market. Large rhino horns weigh about 15 pounds. Unlike elephants’ ivory tusks, rhino horn is made out of keratin, the same fibrous proteins found in our own nails and skin. It is scientifically proven to have no health benefits or medicinal properties for humans. Despite this – the carnage continues.
During this trip I was fortunate to spend time with Mikey and Tanya Carr-Hartley, owners of Specialised Safaris, who convinced me to compete in the ‘Rhino Charge,’ a race in safari vehicles to raise money to save and support rhino populations and mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. Upon returning home, I began fundraising for the race. The outpouring of interest and support I received from friends inspired me to do even more to help these majestic creatures, and shortly after, American Rhino was born. The new apparel and home goods line quickly became a family affair when my then 19-year old son designed the logo, an American flag in the shape of a rhino.
On a follow up trip to Kenya, the American Rhino team discovered that rhino rangers in the Masai Mara, who are in charge of protecting rhinos in that area, were doing so in flip flops and with limited protection. The rangers are on the ground, risking their lives daily to protect rhinos. Meanwhile, poachers in the area are outfitted in top quality gear, using high caliber weapons and sophisticated technology. This discovery inspired the team to help them directly.
To help fund a grant to better equip the rangers, in June American Rhino expanded its product line to include tote bags, belts, beach towels, dresses, and more- all made in Kenya utilizing some kikoy fabrics in each. Kikoy is 100 percent cotton and traditionally worn in East African as a wrap or sarong. In addition, American Rhino opened its first pop-up shop at MarketStreet in Lynnfield, MA this summer.
Following a busy and exciting June, this past July, we delivered our first grant on behalf of our customers. The grant helped outfit rhino rangers in Kenya’s Masai Mara with better equipment – uniforms, boots, sleeping bags and backpacks. With the rangers better equipped with the tools needed to protect themselves and the African rhinos, we are hoping the outcome will be better for everyone, except the poachers, of course.
Planning is already underway for the American Rhino Foundation’s second grant, which will benefit the rangers that have been injured in the line of duty. It will also help the families of rangers that have been killed protecting the African Rhino. Currently, there are no support options in place to help these rangers and their families; American Rhino plans to change this. On average, close to two dozen rangers are killed every year while protecting the rhinos.