Making the case for rhinos

PICTURED ABOVE: Betsey Brewer Bethel ’92 and Professor of Psychology Kathleen Morgan at the International Zoo Educator’s 22nd Biennial Conference

Betsey Brewer Bethel ’92, the executive director of education at E.A.R.T.H—a nonprofit at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, Mass.—hopes to clear up misconceptions that endanger one of the oldest-living mammals on the planet: the rhinoceros.

In the Huffington Post article “Rhino Royalty: World Leaders Shedding Light on a Nearly Extinct Species,” she shared staggering facts on the declining population of rhinos—attributing this decrease to a thriving black market for rhino horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine and as decoration.

“I’ve had visitors in our discovery center at the zoo suggest that rhino horn is necessary in traditional Asian medicine. Many people are unaware that rhino horn is simply keratin, or finely compressed hair,” she told the Quarterly. Her article in the Huffington Post is part of efforts to separate fact from fiction, with the hope of saving these animals from extinction.

“Education and awareness is key to changing people’s views. We need contact with nature to care about all life on this planet. Without an intimate connection, education, awareness and caring, our planet will forever change,” she said.

For many years, Bethel has teamed up with Associate Professor of Psychology Kathleen Morgan, who places Wheaton students in positions on the applied behavior analysis research team in conjunction with Southwick’s Zoo’s nonprofit affiliate, Earth Ltd.

“We feel that offering the students this opportunity helps them in their studies and assures that they have an opportunity to become part of a growing community of wildlife educators and environmental stewards. Our planet faces many critical issues and the students today are our future leaders. We need to equip them with as many opportunities as possible and to educate them in the many facets and aspects of wildlife conservation,” Bethel said.