Strike Out Rhino Extinction with AAZK and the Zoo

Pin, grey, alley, strike, horn—what do these words have in common? BOWLING FOR RHINOS! Zoos have been saving rhinos through an annual campaign called Bowling for Rhinos (BFR) for almost 30 years. The OKC Zoo Chapter of the Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) has been raising money for rhino conservation since 1990, funding over $300,000 towards the preservation of rhino species in Africa and Asia. But why do these species need saving? The decline in rhino populations can be linked to two factors: poaching for their horns and loss of habitat. 

As the human population continues to increase, the viable land for wild animals is declining. The growing demand for housing, infrastructure expansion and agricultural lands has fragmented the available habitat for many Asian rhinos, which makes breeding complicated. In the Indonesia islands, rhinos have almost become nonexistent, with an estimated 100 Sumatran and 60 Javan rhinos left. Because their species is so rare, there is a critical need for dedicated defense teams called Rhino Protection Units. These officers ensure the safety of rhinos and maintain the ecosystems in which they patrol. The funds from BFR campaigns goes directly to support agencies who have made it their life’s mission to preserve these species. 

Rhino guards are not limited to Indonesia; anti-poaching guards can be found in many countries across Africa. White and Black rhinos are heavily poached for their horn, which many cultures believe has curative properties, when in fact it’s made from keratin—the same material as finger nails and hair. At the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, an organization that BFR also supports, a rhino has not been poached in 3 years. While this is an amazing win for the preservation of rhinos, in South Africa, 1,200 rhinos were poached in 2014, which means that there is still more work to be done. Luckily, rhinos are not battling alone; people like you and I won’t let this be the end of rhinos. 

Saving species globally may seem like a daunting task but bowling locally can help strike out extinction! Join us on July 22nd from 6-9 p.m. at Heritage Lanes for the 23rd annual Bowling for Rhino event. Tickets include bowling, shoes, pizza, door prize tickets and a commemorative t-shirt. For registration, please visit

– Erica Buckwalter, naturalist instructor and Bowling for Rhinos chair of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the American Association of Zookeepers

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