Rhino Encounters: Phil Loader
How did your love affair with rhinos begin?
It began several decades ago but reached new heights when I met Ray Dearlove a few years ago.
A lot of my working life has been spent conducting oil and gas exploration in different parts of Africa, exposing me to the good and the bad that Africa offers up. In the mid-1990s I lived for some years in South Africa, arriving around the time that Nelson Mandela came to power. Like the majority of South Africans, expats and visitor, I spent a great deal of time visiting the Kruger National Park and other wildlife parks and became an ardent wildlife conservationist. It was here that I first encountered the rhino.
Even though I have been living in Perth for the past 3.5 years, my passion for Africa, conservation and the plight of the rhino has continued unabated and I have spent many of my holidays visiting South African game parks.
In fact so passionate am I about that country and its wildlife that I am now finalising my very own lodge in the heart of one of the Big 5 game parks.
How did you become involved in the Australian Rhino Project?
A friend told me about the project and I immediately contacted Ray. I am now a keen sponsor and early last year sponsored a visit to Perth by leading African wildlife veterinarian, Dr Pete Morkel. Pete is particularly well known for his work involving the capture and translocation of large mammals particularly black rhino, of which he is recognized as a world expert.
Given the passionate gallery of rhino supporters we have here in the West, the meeting not surprisingly was packed out.
If you had a magic wand, what would you like to see happen?
First and foremost, I would like to stop the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China in its tracks.
This would not only mean getting the governments of those countries onside but also getting the local media, social media influencers and celebrities right behind the initiative.
The power of the media was clearly on display when Prince William went on television in Vietnam during a visit in October to talk about the plight of the rhino. Ironically that same week a woman in that country was arrested by authorities for bringing $7M of rhino horn and Al Jazeera showed an undercover video of Chinese men inspecting rhino horn and negotiating the price.
If social media influencers could do for rhinos what they did when 13-year-old Cecil - a prized research animal and majestic symbol of Zimbabwe's wildlife industry – was slaughtered by US dentist, Walter Palmer, what a difference that would make.
Also think of what someone with the international gravitas and respect of Sir David Attenborough or Dame Jane Goodall could do for the cause!