8 men, 1 rhino suit and the highest mountain in Africa.

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It’s not everyday you hear about a group of people climbing up Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa wearing a 10kg Rhino suit, so when we heard one of our good friends Michael was doing just that, we wanted to know more. On the December 12th 2012 Michael and 7 of his friends will climb to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa and one of the '5 peaks' of the globe) to help raise money for the amazing charity, Save the Rhino and for a bit of an adventure and challenge.

Rhino’s are becoming more and more endangered - Unfortunately their numbers are on the decline due to the increased rates of poaching and strong demand for their horns.  Over the past few years there has been an epidemic of rhino poaching all thanks to black market demand in certain East Asian countries. The demand for rhino horns has historically been enormous, and prices for them can be higher than that of gold.  Poaching is prevalent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Mozambique, Nepal, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  Home to the largest population of rhinos, South Africa is especially facing increased rates of poaching, in 2011, in South Africa alone, 448 rhino were poached for their horns and the latest 2012 figures show that over 588 have been killed.  These are huge figures considering the wild population numbers are only in the 1000’s.

Why are poachers taking their horns?

Globalisation has made it easier to smuggle rhino horn out of Africa.  Rhino horns are used in Asian countries for their supposed healing properties. In China and Vietnam, rhino horn is unfortunately promoted as a "remedy" for nearly everything, from fever to cancer.  Yemen also use rhino horn for making ceremonial dagger handles and used to be a large importer of rhino horns until an import ban was put into place.

We need to teach people to stop thinking of rhino horn as a valuable commodity and start focusing on the facts. Rhino horn has no medicinal properties, no curative benefits, and no magical powers.  This is why Save The Rhino play such an important part in trying to save these beautiful animals, they are educating, and why the boys climb up Mt Kilimanjaro can help make a difference.

I asked Michael a few questions as I wanted to know a bit more about the climb.

Why Mt Kilimanjaro?

Michael: Two reasons for the climb – it’s a huge challenge and its going to be a bit of an adventure.  Once completed, I’m sure it will be a journey I can look back on with pride, especially knowing the money we raised and the difference we hopefully make.

Why ‘Save the Rhino’?

M: We wanted to make this trip worthwhile for others as much as ourselves. It’s a big undertaking so why not use it to promote a worthy cause? We wanted a charity that was relevant to the climb and us being in Africa.  One of our friends got in touch and said he had the ultimate accessory that would really make this trip interesting - it will definitely sort out the men from the boys... The rest is history, and now we are climbing this massive mountain in a 10kg fiberglass rubber rhino suit!

Rhino suit that the boys will take turns wearing - looks heavy!  

Do you have any sponsors or is the trip being funded out of your own pocket?

M: The trip is all funded out of our own pockets. We are roughly looking at over 3,000 euros each to do this. It’s not cheap - airfares, park fees, vaccinations, equipment, it all adds up, but it’s for a great cause and should deliver some pretty awesome stories at the end.

How much would you like to raise?

M: As a group we are trying to raise 8,000 euro ($12,500 NZD / $10,000 AUD).  All the money that is raised goes directly to the charity, it doesn't come to us.  Throw a 10'er my way and help me reach this goal!

Are you going to document the climb?

Yes, we are going to document the whole trip from arriving in Kenya right through the assent and back down. We will be climbing at the time of the great migration so there will be some amazing footage. We have a couple of cameras with HD and will put together a short film post climb for all to view. We are finding out what the reception will be like on the mountain. If it’s possible we will do updates on the way up so you all can keep a track of our progress via Twitter and Facebook.

How long will the climb take?

It will take 6 nights, 7 days. Sleeping will mainly be in tents and some small huts. At 6,000 meters it gets really, really cold so hoping our gear is up to it!  This is going to be a real challenge, especially with this suit but if we raise the money it will all be worth it.

The boys have also been asked by a local school in Kenya if they would visit the students and spend the day with them post climb, telling them their story, both of the climb and of NZ.  A nice little cap off to what is hopefully a successful climb.

The link for Michael's donation page is here - Five dollars, ten dollars or even twenty, anything you have spare would be greatly appreciated by the boys and of course all of the surviving rhinos in the wild.  A Facebook page has also been set up so that you can follow and track their progress and a short YouTube clip was made by them explaining why they are doing this.  A huge effort for an amazing cause.

Good luck boys, it wont be easy but it will be worth it!

Julia x