By Michelle Everhart
The Columbus Dispatch
December 7, 2000
Most people probably wouldn't think of the rhinoceros as a precursor
to the fabled unicorn.
But Tom Foose believes in magic.
Foose, program director of the International Rhino Foundation,
said the mythical unicorn probably was patterned after an ancient
rhino that looked like a heavy horse and had a long horn on its
Foose, who spoke yesterday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said
he considers modern rhinos just as mythical and magical -- creatures
that are important to save.
Foose's foundation is a nonprofit group dedicated to the conservation
of rhinos worldwide.
The foundation -- based at the Wilds in Muskingum County, about
65 miles east of Columbus -- got its start in Columbus in 1989.
All five species of rhinos -- black, white, Indian, Javan and Sumatran
-- are endangered, with a total population worldwide of 16,000 in
the wild and 1, 000 in captivity. The Columbus Zoo has three black
"Rhinos can recover through protection,'' Foose said.
"To a great extent, Columbus has been the cradle of the International
The Columbus Zoo has helped fund the program since 1993, donating
about $25,000 a year. The money goes to help protect rhinos throughout
Africa and Asia, but specifically in the Garamba National Park in
Twenty-five other organizations each year come up with an additional
$25,000 to pay for guards and vehicles to protect the park's rhinos,
"Without money for guards, the rhinos would have disappeared,''
"A couple times, we couldn't even deliver money to the guards
but they believed in us and the Columbus Zoo so they continued to
Guards have protected rhinos in Garamba Park since 1995. Some have
been killed while protecting the animals.
Poachers are the No. 1 reason for a decline in the rhino population.
Ground rhino horns are thought to be a cure for high fevers and
seizures in Chinese traditional medicine. The horns are sold on
the black market for hundreds to thousands of dollars.
At a time when many organizations saw the conservation of rhinos
as a lost cause, the zoo stepped in to help.
"Some places were afraid to fail,'' said Harry Peachy, head
keeper of pachyderms at the Columbus Zoo. "We were looking
for something in dire need of help and we found the rhinos.''
Some of the money the zoo donated was profit from the giant panda
exhibit in 1992. Some came from fund-raisers and from the budgets
of other zoo departments, Peachy said.
Now, Foose said, the rhinos are on their way back. All five species
have maintained or increased their population in the past decade.
After members of the rhino foundation were kept out of Garamba
Park for a year because of war, they returned to discover seven
calves born during that time.
But while the rhinos appear to be gaining numbers, they still aren't
out of the woods. Peachy said he doesn't know how long it will take
for the species to recover, but the zoo is committed to helping.
"If we need to be there, we will be there,'' he said.