"Race for Rhinos"; local pilots head to Africa

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Rick Morrison has been a pilot for nearly 40 years, and he shares his love of flying with others as a flight instructor.

Photo courtesy by Ken McLeod.

"The people that you meet in aviation, it's a real tight bonded group of people that share a passion," said Rick Morrison.

That passion is shared by his wife, Leah Morrison, who is also a pilot. She has taken part in the Reno Air Races, in Nevada.

"You go as fast you can around a race course that has pylons, and you're 50 feet above this course," said Leah Morrison. "You're racing with seven other airplanes. You're not in formation. You're trying to pass people, so it's quite dangerous. But it is really fun."

The Morrisons are about to combine their love of flying with an effort to protect wildlife in Africa. They will take part in the "Race for Rhinos" air-race, later this month.

Race for Rhinos is a two-day airplane race, above the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, in southern Africa. Moreover, the event raises funds for rhino protection groups.

"You have to do time and distance - no GPS," said Rick Morrison. "It's just real dead reckoning, old style, needle, ball and airspeed flying."

The Morrisons learned about the race from their friend, Ken McLeod, who is from South Africa and is also a pilot.

"It's really the increase in the poaching that is alarming," said McLeod. "Rhinos in southern Africa are getting killed at about a rate of three per day."

Poachers mutilate the rhinos to take their horns.

"There are some cultures that like to have them for a knife handle. Some cultures think that they can grind them up and use them for some kinds of medicines," said Rick Morrison. "It's really crazy to see the stuff they're doing on it."

The Morrisons, along with McLeod and his wife, Jill, will leave in two weeks for an 8,700-mile journey to Africa.

"As a pilot, you're looking for the adventure," said Leah Morrison. "I have never been to South Africa. I've never met the people over there in Botswana. And having a great cause behind it is just exciting. It's exciting to be a part of that."

If you would like to donate to Thlokomela Trust, Botswana’s Endangered Wildlife Trust that is working to protect rhinos, go to https://www.crowdrise.com/race-for-rhinos-thokomela-trust.

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