In September 2010 I wrote about the 210 rhinos South Africa had lost to poaching. The final number for the year was 333 dead rhinos (and that’s just in this country – the rest of Africa are also losing their rhinos at an alarming rate). All for the sake of little men and supermodels who need a boost in their love lives, something they most definitely do not get from consuming ground up rhino horn, which is made of keratin, the same stuff human hair and fingernails consist of.
If you’d like to see what a rhino looks like after its horn has been removed by poachers, have a look here (not for sensitive viewers).
At the end of January 2011, we’d lost another 21 animals, but at least 31 arrests have also been made in that time. Some of the accused were veterinarians, which I find utterly deplorable. Park rangers have since taken an aggressive stance and since the start of this year, five poachers have been killed and two wounded. However, with the price of rhino horn valued at R400 000 (roughly $55 217) per kilogram, while gold is valued at R300 000 (roughly $41 412) per kilogram, I don’t see an end to the crisis anytime soon.
Conventional methods to prevent poaching include safely dehorning the animal, which is less than ideal, because it then has no means of defending itself and the horn will grow back eventually anyway. Microchip tagging and tracking devices have proved to be ineffective as well. Game owners are now experimenting with injecting the horns with pesticide, a practice that is safe for the rhinos but which would mean consumers would be imbibing a toxic chemical that, although not lethal, should cause considerable discomfort and will hopefully act as a deterrent for future use of the product.
Rhinos are an endangered species. Current figures estimate that there are globally roughly 18 000 white rhinos and less than 4300 black rhinos left. The unfortunate Javan rhino is clinging to existence with an estimated population of between 40 – 50 individuals. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why it’s necessary for us to prevent the extinction of this beautiful animal. You can help by spreading the word of our rhino’s plight or making a donation with the WWF or the International Rhino Foundation.
Next time you’re in the Kruger Park or another private game reserve and a rhino saunters across the road, think about a world in which these creatures may only exist in pictures or memories. I don’t know about you, but that world seems pretty bleak to me. And if you haven’t made it to Africa yet, let’s hope you won’t be too late…