By Gerri Miller
There used to be 800 one-horned rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park in Nepal. There are now barely 100 left, their numbers decimated by poachers who sell their horns on the black market for bogus medicinal purposes at a hefty price. The government is cracking down on the illegal activity, but the poaching persists. To raise awareness of the problem, “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush traveled to Nepal and joined a group of scientists on a mission to find, capture, sedate, and collar a rhino with GPS device so its movements could be tracked. Nat Geo Wild filmed the expedition for the special “Chasing Rhinos,” premiering Oct. 13, its cameras following Bush to bear witness to shocking evidence of the poaching trade. “If I can be part of saving the life of one rhino,” he says, “the effort will be worth it.”
MNN: How did you become aware of the rhino situation in Nepal? Billy Bush: My very close friend is the president of National Geographic Channels; he approached me with the project. Nat Geo WILD was partnering with World Wildlife Fund on a program about the illegal poaching of the Asian one-horned rhino in Nepal. They wanted to raise awareness about the topic, and bring a “fish out of water” element to the documentary … they got me! I’m about as far out of the water as you can get.
How long did it take to organize the trip? From when I agreed to do the project until we took off for Nepal, it seemed to be about three months.
What do you hope to accomplish? I’m hoping to open as many eyeballs as possible to the illegal poaching of one-horned rhinos in Nepal, and teach the importance of keeping rhinos well-populated around the world. My mother is a conservationist; she’s on the board of the Nature Conservancy. And so I’ve always believed in life that if nature’s out of balance, the world is out of balance.
Were there any scary moments on the expedition? I was sitting on the back of a truck, 10 feet away from a rhino that was 15 feet long and probably weighed three tons. Knowing that if this living, breathing Army tank decided to ram the truck, it would easily knock us over, was pretty scary. Patrolling the Chitwan National Park at night — even with military — was also intense. Knowing that armed poachers could be out there and ready to defend themselves was truly frightening. More....