Kids Help Rhinos: Writing to Save Endangered Beasts

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Andatu, the first Sumatran rhinoceros born in captivity in Indonesia, checks out the book about him.


Photograph by Bill Konstant, International Rhino Foundation

Published September 19, 2014


Fifth graders at the P.S. 107 John W. Kimball Learning Center in Brooklyn, New York, are helping the most critically endangered of the five remaining rhino species: the Sumatran rhino. The students wrote and illustrated a children’s book, One Special Rhino: The Story of Andatu, told from the perspective of the Sumatran rhino born in Indonesia in 2012.


Only around a hundred Sumatran rhinos remain in the world. Demand in Asia for rhino horn—mistakenly believed to have healing properties—has led to illegal hunting of the Sumatran and other rhinos. Habitat loss from illegal logging and loss of forest converted to cropland also threatens rhinos.


"This is going to be terrible,” recalled fifth grader Owen. “I have to do every homeroom period just to write a stupid book." But once he started working on the book, Owen changed his mind: "Rhinos are just like us. They liked their mamas and wanted to play with them. To think they were going extinct, it was just sad, and we wanted to help them."


In addition to the book, the students also worked on school-wide art projects, made a short video with a student narrating from the point of view of Andatu the rhino, and raised money through lemonade stands. The children’s interest in helping rhinos drew the attention of the International Rhino Foundation, which visited the school and provided research materials for the book. Proceeds from the book go to the foundation.


"When there are so few of us," Andatu says in the book, "it's hard to find friends to play with. This is sad to me. So I'm here to tell you about my life and ask for your help."


Portions of this story were taken from the "Schoolkids Write Book to Help Save Rhinos" article written by Katherine Eban, National Geographic News.

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How You Can Help Rhinos

  • Spread the word and tell your friends that rhinos are endangered and need help.
  • Make rhino-themed greeting cards with your friends and sell them to raise money for a nonprofit that helps rhinos.
  • Find a favorite children’s book on rhinos from your library and bring it into your classroom to share with other kids and teach them about rhinos.
  • Tell your parents to buy certified sustainable palm oil and FSC-certified forest products to help minimize impact on rhino habitat.