Rhino Encounters: Cliff Rosenberg
How did your love affair with rhinos begin? Tell me about that first special encounter? What is it about rhinos that so endeared you to these majestic animals?
I was born in South Africa and spent much of my holidays as a teenager visiting the Kruger National Park with my family. From the very first time I saw rhinos in the wild I remember being overawed by their majestic beauty and the amazing similarity they have with their prehistoric forebears and other creatures that roamed the earth thousands of years ago. It was also during my teenage years that I took up photography and it did not take long before I became passionate about trying to capture the spirit of rhinos and other wildlife on film.
How has your love affair manifested itself over the years?
My father, mother and brother still live in South Africa and I try to visit them at least twice a year. Over the last few years we have always attempted to spend a few days at different game reserves and lodges, something my teenage son looks forward to immensely. Going out on a jeep at sunrise to see wildlife in their natural habitat is truly a privilege and something that I will never grow tired of. Also, over the years, my passion for photographing nature and wildlife has remained with me and without a doubt, rhinos have always been the most exciting to capture on film. I especially enjoy seeing rhinos accompanied by their calves and on our most recent visit to South Africa were incredibly fortunate to come across a new born calf that was less than a day old. This is an amazing memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
How did you first get involved with the Australian Rhino Project?
Ray Dearlove contacted me about two years ago during the early days of developing the plan which has now become the Australian Rhino Project. His and my deep desire to protect the rhino as a species has created a very special bond between us. It has been a real privilege to become involved in the project and to help spread the word across the globe about the plight of the African rhino and the desperate need to save this wonderful animal from extinction.
Would you like the preservation of the rhino as a species to be part of your ongoing legacy?
Absolutely! I cannot imagine how humans can stand by and watch such a beautiful species be destroyed for what in essence is nothing more than human greed and ignorance. I find it extremely sad that if current poaching trends continue, we will potentially be left with just a handful of rhinos in a variety of zoos around the world rather than seeing them in their real natural habitat.
If you had a magic wand what would you do to address the current rhino crisis?
First and foremost it would be about educating people in countries where there is the belief that rhino horn has medicinal powers. This is a long-held belief that has been passed down from generation to generation. The reality is that rhino horn is made from the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails and has been scientifically proven to yield no medicinal benefits whatsoever. These long-held beliefs have driven up demand to the crazy point at which a rhino horn is now more valuable than its equivalent weight in gold, with an average horn worth about US$500,000. As a result an entire industry has been created by criminal gangs which relentlessly and mercilessly poach and slaughter rhinos with complete disregard for the cruelty they inflict. They also don’t seem to care that we are literally just years away from the rhino becoming extinct.