Mission & History
Mission and Vision
The International Rhino Foundation is dedicated to the survival of the world’s rhino species through conservation and research. At the heart of IRF’s vision is the belief that these magnificent species should endure for future generations, and that protecting rhinos ensures that many other species that share their habitat also survive, including people.
Throughout its 25-year history, the International Rhino Foundation has supported and managed rhino conservation projects in Africa and Asia. Our core values — hard work, partnership, passion, and optimism — are at the heart of everything we do.
Successful conservation takes hard, sometimes back-breaking work. Anti-poaching and monitoring teams on the ground give their all to making sure that their charges survive. In Zimbabwe, for example, Lowveld Rhino Trust trackers may walk for a week to make sure a missing rhino is still alive and well. In Indonesia, Rhino Protection Units carry 50-pound packs, containing all their food and supplies, for 15 days per month at a time through the dense rainforest. These men also brave dangers posed by tigers, elephants, and swarms of malaria-carrying mosquitos (not to mention scores of blood-sucking leeches).
We recognize there is more work to do to save rhinos than one person or organization can ever accomplish in a lifetime. Therefore, IRF has identified and partnered with like-minded people and some truly exceptional organizations to work together towards our mutual goal of saving rhinos. We’ve learned that the key to being a good partner is humility – recognizing that every group has different strengths and something to offer – if we can build on those strengths, together we can get the job done.
We love what we do. Period. All of us at IRF are passionate about rhinos, with a 23-year track record of helping them to survive under some of the most difficult circumstances on Earth. We are steadfast in our belief that our commitment will help save these magnificent creatures from extinction.
Our teams couldn’t achieve what they do without underlying optimism that our work is making a difference. Despite challenges, we hold great hope that together, through hard work, partnership, passion, and careful investment of precious resources where they are most needed, we will ensure that rhinos survive for future generations.
More than 30 years ago, intense, organized poaching was decimating Zimbabwe’s black rhino population at an alarming rate. In response, a group of concerned individuals and institutions founded the International Black Rhino Foundation in 1989. In part because of the Foundation’s support, poaching was virtually eliminated and Zimbabwe’s black rhino population began to stabilize and eventually increase.
In 1993, recognizing that all five rhino species were facing an escalating crisis, the International Black Rhino Foundation expanded its mission and became the International Rhino Foundation (IRF).
All five living rhino species (Black, White, Greater One-Horned, Sumatran, and Javan) are in terrible peril – from poaching, forest loss, and habitat conversion, from human settlements encroaching on their habitats in Africa, Indonesia, and India, and from the effects of living in small, isolated populations that can’t get together to breed. IRF protects particularly threatened rhino populations and their habitats in the wild, while also supporting management and applied research that can help improve the chances for rhinos’ long-term survival.
IRF’s current major programs include: 1) Indonesia: Rhino Protection Units, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, and the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area; 2) India: Indian Rhino Vision 2020; 3) Zimbabwe: Lowveld Rhino Conservation Program; and 4) Southern Africa: Operation Stop Poaching Now. IRF also supports scientific research, providing grants for work that is directly applicable to management, propagation, and conservation of rhino species in nature and in breeding centers.
Around 900 individual “members”, along with zoos, private foundations, corporations and government agencies comprise IRF’s financial supporters. The International Rhino Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors who generously contribute time and financial resources to its efforts. IRF maintains a very small staff – this lean structure allows more than 92% of its funds to go directly to its field programs in Africa and Asia. The IRF Program Office is based in Strasburg, VA (USA); the IRF Business Office is in Fort Worth, TX (USA).