The TCU Rhino Initiative was started by Dr. Mike Slattery, Director of TCU’s Institute for Environmental Studies. In 2013, Dr. Slattery was awarded a $25,000 grant through TCU’s Global Innovators program, an initiative designed to bring groundbreaking individuals from developing countries to the TCU campus to participate in multi-disciplined curricular and co-curricular programs. In April 2014, Dr. Will Fowlds, a South African wildlife vet, and one of the world’s leading rhino conservationists, spent a week at TCU as the spring semester’s Global Innovator. Dr. Fowlds gave a series of public lectures both on campus and in the Fort Worth community, meeting with several key conservation groups as well as high school students from around the region. However, the core activity of Dr. Fowlds’ visit was a series of critical conversations with a select group of 24 TCU students representing a broad range of disciplines, from environmental sciences and biology to business and political science. During these conversations, students examined the many difficult, ethical decisions conservationists face with regard to species preservation. For example, is legalizing the rhino horn trade the only viable conservation strategy for reducing poaching? How do we achieve a balance between human values and interests on the one hand, and our obligations and responsibilities to nature on the other?
A key component of TCU’s Global Innovator program is sustaining the engagement between the TCU community and the Global Innovator through virtual correspondence and ongoing projects. To this end, TCU sent 15 students to South Africa in 2015 to participate in Dr. Fowlds’ wildlife conservation course, beginning what we hope to be a lifelong association with him and his critical work.