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Spring 2001




Jack Rawlins has established scholarships to help save the earth.

  Researchers in Zimbabwe prepare to place a radio collar on an elephant downed by Rawlins' tranquilizer dart. (Photo 1980s)
[ large photo ]

Jack Rawlins had wanted to see the big animals of Africa. He had hunted and fished all his life, but he had always had
the advantage over the animals. "I had always wondered how I would feel and how I would react if there was some animal that was just as interested in killing me as I was in killing it," recalls Rawlins. He got that opportunity on his first 12-day trip to Africa in 1970 that included a safari; he killed a cape buffalo, the species most responsible for hunter deaths. Over the next two decades, Rawlins returned to Africa many times, shifting from hunting animals to darting them for research, from hunter to wildlife protector.

Rawlins and his wife, Elizabeth, have traveled the world fishing and hunting. When they fished in Iceland in the 1970s, they were struck by the pristine waterways. "Over a period of about 20 years, we went back year after year, and we began to notice little bottles and cans," notes Rawlins. "Every year it would get worse." But Iceland was nothing compared to the destruction Rawlins witnessed in Africa.

"Every year, the people would be worse off, the political situation would be less stable, and the animals would be suffering and then destroyed," says Rawlins. "We were seeing this slow but steady destruction of huge pieces of the world everywhere we went. You have to be pretty dumb not to catch on."

Seeing the world in danger led Rawlins to his volunteer work with the national parks in Zimbabwe. For more than 20 years, he helped them by providing material goods they couldn't get and by darting animals so they could be collared for research purposes.

As he got older, Rawlins got away from the idea of killing animals. "Darting the animal was the answer," he says. "It's much more dangerous and you have to get much closer." He developed a friendship with the director of research for Zimbabwe's parks, who asked Rawlins to help dart animals.

Rawlins believes that the world needs young people with vision and dedication to ecology and conservation. To that end, he has established the Jack Rawlins Ecology and Conservation Awards at CSU, Chico. His mother received her teaching credential from Chico State, and his brother, wife, and he all attended Chico State for two years before going to UC, Berkeley. "The family has a fairly thorough connection to Chico State," says Rawlins. "I didn't have the kind of money that could make any difference at a school like Cal, but I can help out a little here."

The scholarships are for "people who are going to devote their life's work to try to save the world for future generations," he emphasizes. The first four recipients received $2,000 each for the 20002001 school year. While his first gift was a cash donation, Rawlins has set up a charitable remainder trust to endow the scholarships after his death.

Rawlins loved his experiences in Africa. "Working with the parks department, I was darting elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, and buffalo to put radio collars on," he says. "That's when I really learned what I was all about. It was much more exciting than hunting with a rifle. It taught me how I really felt about wildlife and hunting and killing animals."

To dart an animal means getting close, as the gun is only accurate within about 30 feet. Rhinoceroses are particularly difficult to dart because they tend to hide in the midst of thorny bushes. To dart them, the park service uses a helicopter. The noise frightens the animal, and it starts to run. To get close enough, Rawlins would stand on the helicopter's framework, "with one leg wrapped around something to hold you there out in the breeze and zooming over the forest right along the treetops and chasing this rhino."

Once the animal is darted, it takes about 20 minutes for the sedative to take effect. The animal's irritation at having been stung means the hunter must stay away. In a chopper that's easy to do, but darting elephants was sometimes done on the ground. Rawlins and the others would need to follow the elephant without getting injured. Once the elephant was down, the team would move in quickly, examine the elephant, and place a yellow collar around the elephant's neck.

When the team was done, Rawlins would come in with a hypodermic and shoot the antidote into a vein in the elephant's ear. In two minutes the elephant would be up and about. "It's so great to watch a big elephant stand up, shake its head, turn and stride off, absolutely none the worse for wear."

To learn more about endowing a scholarship or trust, contact Ed Masterson at 530-898-5297 or


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