Videographer shares story of efforts to save northern white rhino

September 15 — Jeff Hyer’s recent trip to Kenya inspired him to tell the story of the northern white rhinos.

He visited the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where he had the opportunity to meet the world’s last two northern white rhinos – Najin and Fatu. Living under guard to protect against the threat of poachers, scientists are working diligently to hopefully preserve the species as it nears extinction.

“I have been following their stories for years,” he said. “But I had the chance to meet the people who work with them and learn more about wildlife conservation. It was an incredible experience.”

The whitefish native says geographic boundaries divide how different countries deal with the conservation of all rhinos, and poaching is a huge problem. And because the two remaining white rhinos in the world are female, finding a way to keep the species alive presents its own biological challenge as well.

“Saving the rhinos seems like a very simple idea,” he said. “But it’s very complex and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I absolutely loved dissecting this and having the chance to connect with the people who work in conservation to find out more about it. I went from general knowledge to much more advanced and I want to communicate with people about it. “

Because white rhinos were donated from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Kenya in the hope that being in their natural habitat could help them reproduce. But both males eventually died.

Conservation efforts now include the use of preserved sperm and eggs from the two females, neither of whom can carry a pregnancy, to create embryos and artificially inseminate southern white rhino surrogates.

Hyer says the history of the northern white rhinos includes the story of how there were only two, what’s going on right now to conserve the species, and then the future of what’s happening. will pass.

“We’re really in the middle of the story right now,” he said.

Hyer is a recent graduate of the University of Montana and is currently pursuing opportunities as a freelance videographer with a passion for wildlife conservation.

Hyer’s early love for animals brought him to Big Valley Radio as the host of Jungle Jack’s Zooniacs, a children’s radio show focused on learning about animals. The program, with its connection to zookeeper and wildlife personality Jack Hanna, traveled to zoos across the country to interview animal experts and learn about different creations.

Hyer says his early experiences inspired him and now the ultimate goal is to get a job in nature documentary programming, like National Geographic. At present, he is working to strengthen his portfolio with an experience like the one he had in Kenya.

“Working in multimedia and conservation is my biggest passion,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic allowed Hyer to travel to Kenya. He said not only was the travel cost much lower, but he also had the opportunity to have more personal access to rhino keepers and those involved in animal conservation, as well as meeting the animals. himself.

“These have been the most exciting few weeks,” he said. “It was very rewarding. I arrived as a tourist, but I left with something more special.”

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