I was lucky enough to be able to take this footage in South Africa in 2013, when a mother rhino allowed us share some time with her and her calf.
I’m not usually one to actively campaign for charities and don’t make much use of social media to highlight issues that I feel are worth attention, I usually just contribute to those I feel are worthwhile and leave it at that, however having recently read about the ever increasing threat to the global rhino population I feel moved to at least highlight the situation and bring it to the attention of others. I appreciate there are countless issues that may seem more relevant or closer to home, but ultimately we are all affected by and responsible for what happens on our planet, and it is Earth Day after all! One of the things that brought this home to me the most was that, whilst I have been lucky enough to see rhinos in the wild, I have an animal-crazy 5 year old at home who may never have that opportunity.
In South Africa alone last year, 1215 rhinos were poached, double the amount of 3 years ago and a rise of 9000% on numbers from 7 years ago, with 2014 being described as the worst poaching year on record by the ‘Save the Rhino’ wildlife charity.
There are now less than 30,000 rhinos in the wild, with 3 of the 5 species critically endangered. Rhino horn is used in parts of Asia to treat a wide range of medical conditions from cancer to hangovers – despite it having no scientific medical benefits. The high price of Rhino horn has also made it a status symbol for wealthy individuals. Soaring demand from Asia for rhino horn has led to a massive increase in illegal poaching, funded by crime syndicates, with rhinos being slaughtered for their horns. Rhinos are being shot in their head, legs and chest to immobilize them whilst their horns are chain-sawed off and then are left to bleed to death. If the rate of poaching continues to increase as it has done, and with no sign of abatement in the demand, it is possible that Rhinos may be driven to extinction in the wild as soon as 2026.
Whilst these are worst-case scenarios, the threat is still very real and if left unchecked the worst outcomes will be realised.
To combat this, conservation programmes are in operation and specially trained units are being established to target poachers. An increase in awareness is also needed both in communities where the lure of cash payouts leads people to turn to poaching and also to reduce the demand for rhino horn. Coordinated international efforts at government level and increased law enforcement initiatives are also required to combat the problem.
There are several charities that work on conservation and education programmes including www.savetherhino.org, http://wwf.panda.org and http://www.march4elephantsandrhinos.org. I’m not going to recommend one over the other, but perhaps ask that people could consider donating to one if they can or are interested in helping.
I’ve highlighted the fate of the rhino in this post, but there are other amazing animals that are even worse off, so if rhinos aren’t your thing, perhaps another species may inspire?
Thanks for taking the time to read this!