The most common comment Matt Meyer has heard during his 2,000-mile cycling odyssey from the Canadian border to Sacramento?
“Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”
What? You’ve never seen a guy on a bicycle towing a life-sized replica of a female rhinoceros?
Well, if you were in Huntington Beach Sunday, or along Pacific Coast Highway in recent days, you may well have seen Meyer, a South African safari guide hauling along his companion, Lunar, the rhino.
Meyer is nearing completion of a two-month trek down the coast designed to raise funds and awareness for the animals, several species of which are critically endangered species in Africa and Asia.
Although rhinos have few enemies in the wild, they are a popular target of poachers and have been hunted to near-extinction. They are valued in several cultures for their emblematic horns, believed to have medicinal and aphrodisiac benefits.
South Africa is home to about 70 percent of the world’s 29,500 rhinos, according to National Geographic. But that population in the wild is in crisis. According to South African National Parks, the number of rhinos poached more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2015, from 333 to 1338. And much of this happens in areas where rhinos are supposed to be protected. Rhinos are also imperiled in habitats in Borneo and Sumatra and a subspecies in Vietnam was declared extinct in 2011.
From a young age, Meyer, a professional Safari guide from South Africa, formed an affinity for the cumbersome rhino and wants to make sure other children can appreciate the animal in the wild.
“I don’t have children of my own,” he said. “But I have nieces and nephews and I couldn’t let them inherit a planet without rhinos.”