With the IUCN’s declaration today that the Black Rhino is extinct in the wild, we thought it would be a good time to share a bit more about how CRASH: An Exhibition to Save the Rhino came to be.

On March 3, 2012, we woke up at Kariega Game Reserve to learn that three of the reserve’s White Rhinos had been poached in the night. One died immediately and two survived. As the brutality and scale of the act resonated through the reserve and the larger community, we were struck by the feeling of hopelessness and the fact that if rhino poaching kept up at this rate, we could lose all wild rhinos in a few generations. So, we asked ourselves: what can we do?

As developers of traveling exhibitions for more than 15 years, we realized that an exhibition about the rhino-poaching crisis could make a difference, but it had to be done in an accessible way. The images of the aftermath are ghastly and Africa is far away – we had to make an exhibition that would make people care. That was how CRASH was born.

CRASH is a love story. It is the story of two of the rhinos who were poached at Kariega that night – Thandi and Themba – a mating pair. Through the exhibition, we meet Thandi and Themba when they are little, we watch them grow up and fall in love, we get to know them and love them too. When they are attacked, we feel it personally. We mourn the loss of Themba, who died 22 days after the attack, and we celebrate Thandi’s full recovery through the miraculous work of Dr. William Fowlds and his team on the ground in South Africa who continue to practice cutting-edge veterinary medicine and save other rhinos.

This poaching story has a hopeful ending, but most do not. Only collectively can we make a difference. By supporting efforts to protect rhinos in the wild and to support the communities where rhinos live, perhaps we can stem the poaching tide and save these magnificent creatures from oblivion. What does it say about us if we fail to do so?

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