The Magnificent Rhino..In Danger and Decline
What Fun! A Rhino Day! This sounds like a party, fun and celebration. Is that what this is all about? No, this special day of attention to the rhino is a step in helping more people to be aware of the fragile survival rate the rhino has unknowingly been placed in. Man has put the rhino in this situation and man is the only one that can see its remedy. WWF, the global conservation organization, has launched a campaign to raise support and funding for those rangers who put their lives on the line to protect Africa’s rhinos, choosing the 22nd of September to do so.
The rhinoceros is a grand animal that has been living on this earth for more than 50 million years. Yet vile and despicable poachers are illegally collecting and selling rhino horns. They slaughter or maim them and leave them to suffer a slow painful death after they rip the horn off the rhino's head. How dare we as humans put this amazing animal in the grips of destruction by our selfish practices. Now wait a minute you say? You don't have anything to do with these poachers and their disgusting practices. That may be true, but you certainly have the ability to support the folks that are trying to stop this from continuing. The most valuable tool anyone has when supporting a cause is knowledge. There's no way to be dedicated to survival of a species if you have no idea why you should.
As with the decline of nearly all endangered or threatened populations of animals, man is the cause of their demise. In the wild, the adult rhino has no true natural predators, but despite its size it is extremely easy for man to kill. A creature of habit, the rhino lives in a well defined home territory and visits the waterholes daily, enabling poachers to wait and ambush the unsuspecting rhino. There are approximately 19,000 white rhino and 1,470 black rhino scattered throughout the national parks and reserves in South Africa. Rhino Day has been created to bring focus to the continuing poaching of these animals and its dramatic increase since 2008. In a recent reply to a parliamentary question, Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica responded that 139 rhino, including 134 white and 5 black, had been poached on private land between January 1 and July 16 of this year. Yes, even Kruger National Park and other provincial reserves have had poachers killing rhino at an alarming rate. More rhino have been killed during this 7 month period than the total from 2000 to 2007. If this trend continues, the poaching will vastly outnumber the births and the rhino population will decline very quickly. Is it too late? No, not if action is taken quickly. But how can we fight the poachers that have access to helicopters, high caliber assault weapons and drugs to immobilize the rhinos? A quote from the WWF website says:
“We’re asking people to take action during the month of September to help us protect our remaining rhino populations and also support our rhino warriors – the men and women at the front line who risk their lives daily against the sophisticated, ruthless and heavily-armed international criminal gangs who run the illegal rhino horn trade,” said Dr Joseph Okori, Head of WWF’s African Rhino Programme.
Compounding the problem is the lack of vigorous law enforcement and court actions in the African nations where the rhino is native. While we as cam viewers see only the black and white rhinos, there are other rhinos that are in grave danger as well. The Javan rhino has less than 70 individuals surviving, the majority living in the jungles of Indonesia with a few in Vietnam. The plight of the rhino is indeed a worldwide catastrophe.
Men have lost their lives along with the rhinos as they try to protect them from harm, and will continue to do so until it is stopped by dedicated and relentless supporters of rhino conservation. There are many stories of bravery and tragedy that are part of the creation of this day of rhino attention. While we have barely touched on the plight of the rhino, there is much more to learn about Rhino Day by going to this link:
And a quick note for those that are confused with the identification of the rhino's we see in South Africa - the white and black, neither of which are white or black. The white rhino's name comes from the Dutch word “weit”, meaning wide, referring to its wide, square muzzle. He's actually gray... no white on this rhino. The black, or hook-lipped rhino, along with all rhino's is an odd-toed ungulate, meaning he has three toes on each foot. He has a thick, hairless gray hide, with both the white and black having two horns. While we won't put on our party hats or slice a cake on Rhino Day, we sure can take some time to learn more and support the front line of defense against the constant poaching and illegal selling that is going on all over the world. Next time you are lucky enough to see a crash of rhinos at the waterhole, take a moment to reflect that you might never see that particular group again if the poachers manage to get them, a sad reality that Rhino Day is striving to change.