Kids Take on African Rhino Poachers, One Letter at a Time

Brother and sister Carter and Olivia Ries of Georgia are using letters to stop poaching in South Africa.

A baby rhinoceros runs through its enclosure on January 12, 2012 at the zoo in Magdeburg, eastern Germany. The little black rhinoceros was born on Christmas Day 2011 at the zoo. (Photo: Getty Images)

Listen up, rhino poachers: Carter and Olivia Ries are very serious about stopping your murderous operation.

The Fayetteville, Georgia, siblings—Olivia is 12 and Carter 11—are calling on friends and supporters from Ohio to Belgium to New Zeleand to collect 1,000 signatures demanding that South African President Jacob Zuma once and for all stand up to rhino poachers. 

"We were shocked when we learned about how severe rhino poaching has become. We were even stunned when we learned how painful it is for rhinos since poachers were basically cutting off their noses and faces just for the horns and leaving the poor animals to die, which sometimes takes days," said Carter, to Global Animal.

MORE: Drones Fight Tiger and Rhino Poaching in Nepal

The Ries' letter to Zuma demands that his government institute "tougher punishment for poaching gangs," increase "border security and checks for wildlife products being smuggled out of the country," and improve "education throughout the country about the power and benefits of working with, rather than against, wildlife."

In 2011, 448 rhinos were poached in South Africa, their horns subsequently cut off and sent to Asian medicinal markets—even though there is no proof of their medicinal value

In southern Africa, only a couple thousand of the black rhinos remain. Although poaching rates have gone down ever so slightly in South Africa in 2012, hardest hit areas continue to be Kruger National Park and the Limpopo province. 

Elsewhere, two other species are even closer to the brink. The Sumatran rhino has only about 200 individuals left in the world, while the Javan rhino is down to fewer than 60 individuals, and is so bad off every known pregnancy is closely watched.

Because of the demand—a kilo of ground-up rhino horn is worth two times the price of gold on the black market—rhinos could could become extinct in the Ries' lifetimes.

In an effort to raise awareness among the young children about the possible extinction of these precious animals, Olivia and Carter teamed up with SPOTS (Strategic Protection of Threatened Species).

"It is worrying that we are still losing such a high number of rhinos throughout the country. The most encouraging area in this whole saga is the increasing number of arrests and the steeper sentences that are being imposed on convicted criminals," said Dr. David Mabunda, the CEO of SANParks, in early 2012.

Olivia and Carter plan to hand deliver their 1,000 letters to President Zuma in 2013.

Although they have received 500 letters so far from around the world and 400 more are coming from South African school De La Salle Holy Cross College, the Ries siblings insist that it couldn't hurt to have more. 

Proud father Jim Ries told TakePart that the U.S. Embassy in South Africa has used Olivia and Carter's Community Rhino Presentation in order to educate South African schools about the issue of poaching and wildlife trafficking. 

"We have also reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and Beijing in an effort to bring our school presentation to local schools to try and collect letters from students in China and Vietnam since those countries currently have the biggest demand for rhino horn," said Jim.

Olivia and Carter will be addressing over 750 students from a local elementary school in Georgia on January 9, where they hope to collect at least 500 more letters after their presentation.

If you are interested in educating more people about rhino poaching, consider using One More Generation's Community Rhino Presentation and please write letters to One More Generation at P.O. Box 143627 Fayetteville, GA 30214 or through info@onemoregeneration.org.

Letters can be sent by One More Generation at P.O. Box 143627,Fayetteville, GA 30214 or by email to info@onemoregeneration.org.
Letters can be sent by One More Generation at P.O. Box 143627,Fayetteville, GA 30214 or by email to info@onemoregeneration.org.Letters can be sent by One More Generation at P.O. Box 143627,Fayetteville, GA 30214 or by email to info@onemoregeneration.org.

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