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Several of the participants of Borneo Rhino Challenge 2004 submitted their journals and stories for us to share. Read about their experience and find out what they endured and experienced – all in the name of Sumatran rhino awareness and conservation!

Jeremy Kirby
Jeremy Kirby works as animal keeper at a zoo in the United States, and is a former “King of the Jungle” competitor. During his participation in Borneo Rhino Challenge 2004, Jeremy acted as a correspondent for Animal Planet. You can read Jeremy’s journal posted on Animal Planet’s web site here.

Kerry Crosbie and Clare Campbell
Both Kerry and Clare work as animal keepers at a zoo in Australia. Kerry is also the Chairperson of Asian Rhino Project a non-profit volunteer organization that raises awareness and funds for the three Asian rhino species.

SOS Rhino Borneo Rhino Challenge 2004

In our efforts to assist the endangered Sumatran Rhino, Kerry Crosbie and Clare Campbell participated in the inaugural SOS Rhino Borneo Challenge. 12 participants from around the world to attended the two-week "Challenge" (May 1-15, 2004). Participants were required to climb to the summit of Mt Kinabalu (13,422 feet), cycle around the Kudat Peninsula (85 miles) and trek through the jungle of the Tabin Wildlife reserve searching for signs of Sumatran Rhino (two days).

The Mountain
This proved to be the toughest part of the challenge but all 12 participants made it to the summit. Both myself and Clare struggled with the mountain though and managed to be the last up and the last down, though our sheer determination got us there eventually.

Clare suffered from slight altitude sickness on the way up from Laban Rata rest house to the summit on day 2. We were required to be up and ready to go by 2.30am after a night full of noise and anticipation ­ not one of us got any sleep! I don't think this helped at all. However we were rewarded with the amazing views of sunrise from the summit that totally blew us away. For a moment there life was grand and things couldn't have been better. Oh what a feeling!

Two hours later ­ back at the Resthouse, things were starting to look shaky. I lost the use of my thigh muscles 500 meters from the Resthouse with 6km left of decent down the steep mountain. The steps were more like cliff faces (slight exaggeration, but that's how we felt at the time) and I was suffering from the effects of lactic acid. Memories of the summit were soon turning grey! With limited rest and no food ­ the perfect recipe for fatigue and exhaustion, the decent made this day one of the toughest, longest days either of them has ever encountered! No respectable word can be used to describe how I felt about that part of the challenge - fun was far from a good explanation! Both of us feel very proud of our achievement though and are proud to say we have been to the top.

The Cycle
This part of the challenge began the very next day after the mountain climb. The schedule was to ride 100km to Kota Belud from the mountain, however due to the fact that most of the participants were physically unable to walk after the mountain climb, the ride was reduced to 40 km (a wise move). This day presented with extreme humidity from rain buildup and the 34-degree heat. Clare and myself both made it though and although I suffered from heat stroke after completion, both of us found this part of the challenge the most enjoyable. The scenery was amazing ­ we passed through several villages where the local people and school children came out to greet us. Fantastic views and the fact that it was easier to cycle than walk was a great boost after the horrific struggle to literally crawl out of bed in that morning.

Day two of the cycle was a non-event for around half of us including Clare and myself. With only one day to recover and the persistent excruciating pain of damaged muscles, the thought of entering a jungle witch experiences regular sightings of wild elephants scared us into self preservation. Instead we took the opportunity to be a support crew for the other half of the participants and brush up on some Malay from our guides.

The Jungle
Our first experience of the jungle was a visit to a nearby volcano which resulted in a massive mud fight and complete soaking from torrential downpours. We did not come across any animals, which was not surprising with the amount of noise 12 people make tramping through the bush! We did however find elephant footprints and fresh dung which was quite exciting.

The next day the group was off for the jungle. All bar two - Katy from SAVE the Rhino International and I got to go out into the plantation areas on the other side of the reserve to visit the community programs and SOS river base camp of the Rhino Protection Unit. This was a great opportunity for us to gain a more in depth understanding of where funds are being spent and how.

Clare's trek took them through thick jungle making their own tracks following GPS readings in search for signs of Sumatran Rhino with the Rhino Protection Units. Sadly all they found was leaches, a wasp nest and came dangerously close to walking into a heard of wild elephants. Although we didn't see any signs of rhino, the RPU that went out the following week found two separate tracks in a new area which is quite exciting!

My journey visited two small villages one of which had a population of 200 people living in 10 houses on the river at the entrance of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The smaller village is where SOS Rhino plans to re-locate their river base camp to. There they will have a better chance of detecting any movements of illegal produce such as wildlife and logging. SOS also plans to construct two new buildings ­ one for the ongoing research programs and the other a kindergarten for the village children. English is not well spoken in this village, and the villagers are very keen to use this kindergarten as a resource to teach their children English while they are young.

Sepilok Sumatran Rhino Breeding Center
We were rewarded with a visit to the rhino at Sepilok at the completion of the challenge which was the highlight of the event. We spent a hour with the female rhino behind the scenes, and then went and visited the male in their amazing forested enclosure. We felt so privileged to have been able to meet these amazing creatures in the flesh. There are only 8 Sumatran Rhino left in captivity now.

This fundraising and awareness event required each participant to raise a minimum of $2,000 (US) for the conservation of the Sumatran Rhino of Borneo. We were able to liaise with SOS Rhino and arrange for us to present the funds by purchasing valuable equipment for the Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The items purchased are:
Five handheld GPS systems ­ these will be used in the reserve by the rangers to enable them to trace their positioning in dense forest, record rhino sightings and tracks as well as and encroachment and signs of illegal poaching activities.
Two digital cameras with waterproof casing and upgraded memory sticks ­ to capture rhino sightings, record findings, and identify species of both flora and fauna in the park.
Two Satellite phones ­ a very important purchase for the safety of the rangers and their volunteers that are on patrol in the jungle. Trekking through these jungles is dangerous. These people face the possibility of crossing illegal poachers, wild elephants, cobras and sunbears as well as crossing very rough terrain. Communication with the base camp and emergency services is vital for their safety.
One 15hp outboard engine ­ SOS Rhino have a base camp at the base of the river that enters into the reserve. Using patrol boats they are able to monitor activities on the river and detect suspicious activities such as transport of illegal trade particularly wildlife and timber.
One diesel generator ­ to power the river base camp at night.

Once again, the Asian Rhino Project would like to thank our sponsors for their support in this project.

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