Take an entertainment personality afraid of bugs, put him in the jungle in Nepal with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and embed him on the front line of rhino conservation. For Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood,” it’s not the typical celebrity story.
In Chasing Rhinos, join Billy Bush in an awe-inspiring adventure as he takes time off from his day job (red carpet meltdowns! hookups! trendspotting!) to fight the illegal poaching of greater one-horned rhinos. He’ll accompany poaching patrols; fly an unmanned aerial vehicle; and participate in a race-against-time effort to catch, collar and release a wild adult rhino.
Greater one-horned rhinos are being poached, even within the borders of protected national parks guarded by armed rangers. Just over 500 of these 12-foot-long, 3-ton living tanks survive in Nepal to this day, and their numbers are threatened due to poachers who are willing to profit at the rhinos’ expense. A single rhino horn can fetch more than $30,000 on the black market, which is reason enough for poachers to slaughter this rare, beautiful and powerful species.
“We have an opportunity to do something really remarkable, and that is to raise some awareness. Most people I told about this mission said, ‘there’s rhinos in Nepal?’” said Bush.
WWF, the Chitwan National Park Rangers and the Nepali government have joined forces to combat illegal poaching and protect greater one-horned rhinos from extinction. Bush may be an unlikely addition, but he has the ability to spread media awareness of the dangers facing the rhinos to millions of people around the world. Bush risks life and limb in a land where nature poses countless dangers and armed poachers lurk in the trees, waiting for their opportunity to trap and kill a rhino.
Chasing Rhinos tracks Bush’s journey with WWF, which begins in bustling Kathmandu, where he investigates the rhino’s role in Nepali society as a sacred, revered creature. From there he travels to Chitwan National Park, the last major rhino holdout in Nepal; they have been systematically poached to the verge of annihilation everywhere else in the country. Bush participates in river patrols around the perimeter of the park; a jungle patrol where he will come startlingly close to a poacher encampment; and a night patrol wherein unseen terrors — both animal and human — lurk in the darkness.
WWF’s Sabita Malla, a young Nepali scientist, is Bush’s guide in the field. She introduces Bush to the technology and methods used in the fight against poachers, which include unmanned aerial drones that will give the anti-poaching squads “eyes in the sky” and a leg up against poaching activity. Malla also brings Bush to an area where millions of dollars’ worth of animal hides, bones and limbs are stored after being seized from poachers. Here, Bush will come face to face with the sobering casualties of this illegal trade in endangered wildlife.
Finally, Bush joins a team of soldiers, scientists and rangers mounted on elephants who will surround a rhino, tranquilize him and collar him while unconscious. It’s a high-octane undertaking, with only 15 minutes to complete their job before the rhino wakes up, angry and confused. And despite his abundant charisma, Billy Bush is no match for a massive creature that can run faster than 30 miles per hour!
Chasing Rhinos with Billy Bush Premieres Sunday, October 13, 2013, at 9 PM ET/PT