Bowling for Rhinos

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A southern white rhino calf trots next to Mom at the Safari Park.

A southern white rhino calf trots next to Mom at the Safari Park.

In 1967, several keepers in San Diego got together to form what is now a nationwide nonprofit organization called the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK). AAZK has over 2,500 members throughout the US and Canada and includes animal care professionals and people interested in conservation and improving animal care. The San Diego chapter of AAZK (SDAAZK) has over 80 members and supporters who work at several of the local animal facilities like the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld, California Wolf Center, Project Wildlife, and Lions Tigers & Bears. It is a great organization that is very active in furthering education for those who work directly with animals and bringing awareness and funding to conservation organizations throughout the world.

The main method of providing funding for conservation organizations is through hosting fundraising events, which we do a lot. I always joke with our members and friends that we mainly raise money to give it away. We know that there are so many worthy causes that need help, and with a membership that is passionate about wildlife conservation, fundraising is a big part of what we do.

So it should be no surprise that SDAAZK has been participating in the biggest AAZK fundraiser since it began in 1990 called Bowling For Rhinos (BFR). The event has raised over $4 million to assist 3 very important conservation organizations: the Lewa Conservancy in Africa, the International Rhino Foundation in Asia, and Cheetahs in Action in Africa. These three organizations have been fundamental in the protection of rhinos and cheetahs and their habitats.

SDAAZK has hosted Bowling For Rhinos every year, and this, our 23rd year, is no different. It will take place on May 18 at Kearny Mesa Bowl in San Diego. Our goal is to raise $20,000 or more for rhino conservation! The event consists of a bowl-a-thon in which participants raise sponsorship money that goes directly to rhino conservation. There is also a silent auction, drawings, best-dressed team contest, a bake sale, live music, and much more.

One of the beauties of the event is that all monies raised go directly to rhino conservation because SDAAZK members and others volunteer their time. We are also lucky in that many businesses from the community have become involved and donate items for the auction and raffle.

Historically, Bowling For Rhinos has been one of our biggest fundraisers, and this year looks like it will be no different. The event is over a week away, and we have already almost sold out the 40 bowling lanes! With each team consisting of 5 players and each player raising a minimum sponsorship of $30 each, our goal of $20,000 is looking good. Plus, we have great prizes for the top fundraisers of the evening. If you are wondering why we set a goal of $20,000, the reason is easy: we want to beat last year’s total of over $16,000.

We would love for you to join us at this year’s Bowling For Rhinos! You can participate even if you don’t bowl; between the auction, drawings, and contests there will be a lot to do. Moral support and cheering is also appreciated. It really is a fun event for a great cause! To learn more about SDAAZK and Bowling For Rhinos, visit our website at! You might be interested to know just what keepers do with their “spare” time.

Yvette Kemp is a senior hospital keeper at the San Diego Zoo and president of the San Diego Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers. Read her previous post, Quarantine for New Animals.