One of the great things about living in Durban, it that there are some many fantastic game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal. Recently we visited a reserve about 2,5 hours away. It started at 6:30am from Durban and we were back by 7pm – it was a fantastic day was great animal sightings. The one sighting which I enjoyed most from this day tour was this one, a rhino giving himself a good scratch against a tree.
White Rhino Having A Scratch
Rhino’s are being poached at a horrific rate – some of the figures I’ve heard are 1200 a year (that’s around 3 a day!) and even if that figure is not correct, it’s probably not far from the right figure.
Rhino horn has been mentioned in the early writings of some Arab traders in the 15th century so it’s certainly not a new threat the Rhino are facing – but it is far worse today than ever before.
Why Are Rhino’s Being Poached?
The Rhino horn was used once as the handle for a specific dagger that a Arab father would gift to his son as a sign on manhood. Thankfully this practice has mostly died away with synthetic horn being used instead.
However Rhino horn is believed to have strong healing powers and so among certain countries (Thailand, Vietnam and China) the horn is used in traditional medicines. After the animal has been killed and the horn removed it’s usually smuggled whole out of South Africa.
The horn travels through smugglers into the aforementioned countries where it’s finally ground into a powder and then used in traditional medicine.
The fact is Rhino horn is made of keratin, the exact same substance that makes up our hair and nails – and this absolutely has no special healing powers, if it did we could simply chew our fingernails or eat our hair when feeling poorly!
US$60,000 per Kilogram
“Why would anyone want to kill a Rhino for it’s horn?” is a question I get asked a lot. Fact is traditional beliefs die hard, it takes a great deal of time to convince people that something they and their elders have believed to be true is in fact incorrect.
Rhino horn is also estimated to be worth about US$60,000 per kilogram on the black market – so if someone is prepared to pay, then someone else will do the job – the ugly underside of capitalism I guess.
What To Do About It
So how do we stop poaching? In my belief it has to do with education and awareness. It may take time but if we keep talking about the traditional practice of using Rhino horn as being incorrect it will eventually take hold. We also need to teach conservation in classrooms around the world, because at the end of the day it’ll be the children of today that’ll be responsible for tomorrow’s conservation efforts.
Education is Key
And finally – we need to constantly remind people over and over again about the benefits of protecting Rhino, especially to those communities that live around reserves. Very often they are the ones who will note poachers arriving or leaving areas. If those people have a vested interest int he survival of the Rhino, I am sure we’ll see the tide turn against Rhino poaching.
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