When I first went to Soutern Africa, I became aware of the sad plight of the rhinoceros. With World Rhino Day having just passed, I thought I’d share what I learned.
Like the elephant, rhinos have been the specific target of poachers. Their horns are thought to be an aphrodisiac by some Asain cultures and that drives the black market trade. Unlike the elephant, however, the horn of a rhino can be cut off and grow back in about a decade.
We visited a private game park where they voluntarily cut off the rhinos horns in an effort to save them by making them unattractive to poachers. Unfortunately, this only works in that kind of protected environment. In the wild, they need their horns to protects themselves. (Except against their worst predator, humans).
In the past, poachers used guns, the sound making their hunt known to those charged with protecting the animals. While the rhinoceros skin looks like armor, it doesn’t protect them from gunfire.
The poachers then found an easier way. They discovered that both elephants and rhinos love apples and oranges. So after injecting the fruit with poison, the scattered the fruit for the animals to find and eat. When a rhino is dying from the poison, they come and cut off the animal’s face and leave them there to die.
This obscene tragedy has rendered the white rhino virtually extinct and the black rhinos in grave danger. In fact, when game parks are asked if they have rhinos, they may answer yes but never divulge numbers. Everyone in that part of the world is acutely aware of the precarious situation these creatures find themselves in.
And now I hope you are aware as well.