When Graham MacDonald and Clint Weimann grew up in South Africa, being face-to-face with a wild animal was not uncommon. Their attitude toward them was one of respect and appreciation, not fear.
In March, while chatting with friends about the horrors of rhino poaching, they decided to create Project Rhino Charleston. And after researching anti-poaching organizations to raise money for, they found Project Rhino Kwazulu Natal, a South African organization that directly pays for supplies, aerial and foot patrols to stop poachers.
Project Rhino Charleston will host a fundraiser for anti-poaching efforts 4-8 p.m. May 4 at 1213 Fort Lamar Road on James Island. The event will be a South African cultural experience with food, a silent auction and live music from Firewater and John Totaro.
MacDonald of James Island and Weimann of Folly Beach said when searching for an organization to donate to, they wanted to make sure the money went directly to the cause. Project Rhino KZN also works with existing anti-poaching organizations. And because it is not a government or political organization, money gets to the anti-poaching team quicker because there is less red tape.
“It's a war against the rhinos,” MacDonald said. “If we sat around and waited for the politicians, the rhinos would be dead.”
According to the international Environmental Investigation Agency, “Rhinoceros populations have been decimated in both Africa and Asia, with three subspecies already extinct and most species and subspecies now critically endangered.”
About 93 percent of the white rhino population is in South Africa. People in many Asian countries, especially Vietnam, believe their horns have healing powers and are a sign of wealth.
But Sarah MacDonald, Graham's wife and media director for Project Rhino Charleston, said their horns are made of keratin — the same thing fingernails and hair are made of. Weimann said the thing that bothers him the most is how poachers get the horns by cutting them off while the animals are alive, leaving them to bleed out and die.
Graham MacDonald said as a child he had many close encounters with rhinos, which he said are a “peaceful animal. It's a gentle giant.”
But Weimann said when he visited the bush in South Africa in December, he did not see a single one.
“It's our heritage. We're very close to our country and close to nature. We can't let greed and myth eradicate this species,” Graham MacDonald said.
Advance tickets for the event are encouraged are can be purchased for $15 at igg.me/at/projectrhino. If you cannot attend, you may donate at the site.
For more details, visit Project Rhino Charleston on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@ postandcourier.com.