Peek-a-boo, rhino style. I see you now, but will I see you in a decade?
Rhinos are back in the news, for the usual bad reasons. Poaching has gone crazy again and the worry is that at the current rate, in a few years’ time, more animals will be killed than are born. And there can be only one outcome if that continues. It’s a desperate situation.
The horns are highly prized for ornamental status symbols or are powdered for oriental medicines. Bizarre, seeing as horn is made of keratin, which is essentially toenails. I wonder what the herbalists would think if I offered them my clippings.
The black rhinoceros is critically endangered and white rhinos are near threatened.
In the field, rhinos have crap eyesight, so it’s possible to get quite close to them on foot, which is what we did on this trip to Matopos National Park in Zimbabwe. This white rhino was aware of our presence, but didn’t get spooked. I was slightly concerned about my guide’s insistence that I should climb a tree if the animal got agitated and charged. There weren’t any trees! I needn’t have worried though, and the colossal animal continued placidly munching and lumbered on with its business without any fuss.
Seeing a rhino in the wild is an increasingly rare experience. On my last trip to the Masai Mara, I didn’t see a single wild rhino. I’ve compensated for this somewhat in my 2015 Mara safari by adding in a visit to the rhino sanctuary, just in case. It seems incredible that even with armed guards watching over them, these iconic animals are still being slaughtered for their horns. The scale of the problem is frightening and those that watch over rhinos simply can’t keep up with the poachers.
I have my fingers crossed for the survival of these magnificent creatures, which are reminiscent more of dinosaurs than modern day animals. But I suspect crossing everything I have won’t be enough. All I can do is hope that my small contribution in getting the conservation message out there with my images and writing will help.
Here’s a video that’s targeted at China and Vietnam about not buying rhino horn. You may be ambivalent about the celebrity nature of the video, but it’s this sort of thing that raises awareness:
White rhino – Matopos, Zimbabwe. ‘White’ is actually a corruption of ‘wijd’, meaning ‘wide’ in Dutch (of which Afrikaans is a major influence). It doesn’t refer to the colour (black rhinos are much the same) but to the width of the mouth. Black rhinos have a more pointed mouth, which they use for browsing twigs and leaves, whereas the wide mouth of a white rhino mows the grass. Probably overkill for the lawn though
If you can, please share this on social media so that global awareness can eventually drive enough action to save threatened species. Thanks.