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Saving the Rhino: DB student Finnley Burrough is on a mission

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Be the change you want to see in the world: Seven-year-old DBer Finnley Burrough may not be familiar with this beautiful maxim just yet but there’s no doubt he embodies it. Jennifer Atepolikhine reports.

Since October, 2015, Finnley Burrough, a Year 3 student at Discovery College (DC), has raised just over HK$10,000 for the Asian Rhino Project – an Australian non-profit that raises awareness and support for the three Asian rhino species: Javan, Sumatran and Indian. Finnley began his effort on his sixth birthday, last year, when he collected HK$3,800 by asking for donations rather than gifts. He has been working to raise awareness among friends and classmates ever since

This September 22, World Rhino Day, Finnley went to each of DC’s Year 3 classes to inform students about the plight of the rhino, worldwide. (Today very few rhinos survive outside national parks and reserves, and both the Javan and Sumatran rhino are listed as ‘critically endangered’.) Finnley then asked his year group peers to donate old and unwanted toys and games for him to sell, to raise funds for the Asian Rhino Project. At his stall, at the Discovery Bay Flea Market on October 23, Finnley raised HK$6,327.

Activist in the making

Finnley’s focus right now is the Javan rhino, the rarest large mammal in the world. Fewer than 50 remain in the wild, living in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia.

Asked why he is so committed to protecting the Javan rhino, Finnley looks at me a little incredulously. “I found out that the
Javan rhino was quickly becoming extinct,” he says gently, obviously a bit worried that I haven’t done my homework. “Two years ago there used to be 35, this year it’s 50. I wanted to help them. So there could be more and more of them.”

Once he’s recovered from being asked to state the obvious, Finnley’s off – eager to share his passion and his encyclopaedic knowledge. “Javan rhinos used to live all around – Indonesia, China, Thailand. Now, because of all the hunting, there are only a very few left,” he explains. “Rhinos are hunted because people think their horns are good for medicine but rhino horns aren’t actually medicine.” While Finnley thinks rhino horns are traded here in Hong Kong, he knows they are very expensive – “one rhino horn costs more than six gold bars”. He also knows how hunters track rhinos – “they follow their dung”.

Going off on a slight tangent, Finnley tells me about an upcoming family holiday to Namibia and Botswana, where there are Black and White rhinos. When I ask him how many there are in the wild, he checks one of his excellent info graphics. “White rhinos, there are 20,405 and the Black, 5,055,” he says with obvious delight.

So what is Finnley working on now? “Until Javan rhino numbers are increased to ‘least concern’, I’ll continue to fundraise,” he says. “Then, I want to set up a new project to help the Sumatran rhino. There are 200 of them left. They don’t have hard armour – they’re not like Black or White rhinos – they look all hairy. And they are gentle; they don’t just, like, charge into you.”

To find out more about the Asian Rhino Project, visit asianrhinos.org.au

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