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Speaker: Dr. Tom Tochterman

Subject: "Founder of Rhino Mercy"

Next Rotary Club Weekly Meeting
  • August 10 @ 12:30 PM
  • Claudia Valderrama

About Dr. Tom Tochterman

Tom is the founder of Rhino Mercy, a US 501c3 non-profit organization established in 2012. Between 2009 and 2012 he traveled frequently to South Africa as a result of that first ‘ah ha’ moment during a wild animal encounter (a pride of lions on a zebra kill). In his determination to better understand the power of such experiences on human behavior, Tom embarked on a five-year doctoral program. Along the doctoral journey Tom learned about the growing threat of poaching and wildlife crime in general across the African Savanah landscape. He decided to focus time, treasure, and talent toward developing a new approach to anti-poaching that included more than the classical response of ‘more guys with bigger guns’. Tom formed a strategic alliance with local stakeholders on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park, South Africa with a mission to defend a small patch of Africa against poaching. With his partner Craig Spencer, Director of Transfrontier Africa, they co-authored the Balule Rhino Conservation Plan. The plan has three key tenets that include physical security (boots on the ground), environmental research, and community beneficiation. The underlying thesis that made the plan unique was a social strategy to raise a sense of ‘environmental patriotism’ within the communities surrounding the Kruger National Park regarding their natural resources and natural heritage. Since the implementation of the Balule Rhino Conservation Plan, poaching has decreased 86% within the Balule Nature Reserve. In April 2022, his work in South Africa was the cover story in the Rotary magazine.

After a 30-year-long career in the commercial real estate industry, Tom received his Ph.D. in Management from Walden University with a specialization in Leadership and Organizational Change. His research interest is in the discipline of environmental leadership and ecological psychology. In 2016 Dr. Tochterman presented his research regarding the influence of cognitive dissonance on the consumption of natural resources and ecosystem degradation at the annual symposium of the Southern Africa Wildlife Management Association in Tzaneen, South Africa.

Tom is further involved in African communities through his membership in Rotary International. He is the Past President of the Rotary Club of Lake Chelan in north-central Washington State and holds the classification of Ecological Services. He is currently involved in efforts to help local Rotary clubs in South Africa and Kenya provide relief to underserved and impoverished communities. Tom has been a member of Rotary since 1990 and is currently working on a project to bring safe drinking water, toilets, and computers to schools in Narok Kenya, and the Maasai Mara. Tom is also Board Chair of the Rotary Action Group for Endangered Species and has presented his efforts to save rhinos and other endangered species at the Rotary International Conferences in Atlanta, USA (2017) and Toronto, Canada (2018). Finally, Tom is District Governor Nominee, District 5060, for the years 2024/2025.

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