Sector: Charity / Not For Profit
However you spend your 20’s and early 30’s will shape the rest of your life. A free spirit, a love of Africa and African’s, and a motorbike journey up Africa were the kindling, but the spark was a road junction in the Democratic Republic of Congo after 4 weeks riding through the Rain Forest on terrible roads, when I gave my two riding partners the ‘my way or the high way treatment’, which was carry on without me along a recently improved A track towards Cameroon, or tack back through the Jungle East via remote C track that led to Garamba National Park, home at that time to the last 23 Northern White Rhino, and Kes and Fraser Smith, two dedicated wildlife conservationists who were looking after them. A rash of punctures, potholes and cursing later, we hit Rhino conservation lifestyle paydirt.
Flagship Product: The Rhino Costume
Current Status: Active
That was in 1989, and the expedition raised funds for the Garamba White Rhinos and led to two of us from that trip co-founding Save The Rhino, in the early 1990’s, while the other became a top lensman and photographer for most fundraising events, especially expeditions. The other significant discovery and turning point I had a hand in was the recovery of a lorry load of Rhino costumes from Chichester Theatre after a production of Ionesco’s play Rhino closed early, which became a symbol of Save The Rhino’s innovative approach to Rhino Conservation and a talisman at fundraising events. The charity celebrated its 25th anniversary recently, and now raises in excess of £5m annually, with the Rhino Costumes still a star turn at events that fund conservation projects all over, but sadly not for the Northern White Rhino, since the last one died in Kenya in 2020.
First Development Phase:
The first phase of development was almost entirely event based, a natural by-product of having young founders and young followers keen to try anything once, as long as it was fun or risky, or both. While the safe charitable income comes from applications to grant making trusts and sometimes government department funds, or taxpayers, an events based programme delivers an income generating base and a brand awareness that can’t be bought. With the Save The Rhino branded Rhino costume and a team of tin shakers a regular attraction at marathons, themed parties, festivals, fairs, shows, talks, exhibitions, conferences, expeditions, challenges, sporting events and many other occasions and gatherings, the only requirements were energy and at least break even. That was almost always accomplished through a huge effort to secure goods in kind donations in return for sponsorship, and participants including founders in it for the experience and the Rhino, not the money, who took what in effect amounted to expenses as payment for full time entrepreneurial startup jobs. It’s not the colour of the privilege, but what you do with it that counts. Looking back, the first development phase came to a close when the brand had accrued such unlocked potential that it was the subject of a bidding war to take it forward by two different consortiums, a British one led by a member of the Branson clan backed by one founder, and an American one led by a member of the Mellon dynasty backed by the other, with the British Fox getting their plan on the table and approved by the trustees first. Charities of course are valued in a different way to businesses, and the biggest wallet doesn’t always win.
There must have been plenty space, opportunity and credulity to establish a wildlife conservation charity back in the 1980’s, or two likely lads with zero zoology experience and scant educational qualifications couldn’t have done it. The stage was well set during travels and adventures in Africa, so when one founder (me) had his promising university career terminated prematurely, and returned to Africa he was lucky enough to call his partner in crime when he busy fruit picking in the Australian outback. Now that’s not easy work, and while the biting flies don’t bother some fruit pickers, they do others, and my mate Dave Stirling grabbed the rope like a drowning man and hauled himself onto the next flight to Nairobi. The rest, as they say, is history, some of which is soon to be recounted in ‘When Hunter Becomes The Hunted’ as true fiction, leaving the historical telling to the winners!