Warning – this post contains graphic information and images, and not much humour – you’ll see why. I don’t apologise.
The conservation of Rhino is a key target for Shamwari. Estimates of populations in the wild, and rates of poaching, suggest that rhinos will be extinct in the wild within 8 years.
Poaching has tripled in the last few years, and with only 4,000 or so black rhino left in the wild, and 16,000 white, losing 1,215 of them in one year is a catastrophe. The truth is, once the gene pool is too small to breed strong genealogies, we will lose them. The real tragedy is that their horn, which can fetch up to 1/2 million US$, is made of keratin, same as our own fingernails.
A Chinese minister in 2008 or so declared that rhino horn had cured his cancer, and it was on for young and old – killing mothers and calves just to putatively save the hide of some ignorant, uncaring human.. Stupid man died of his cancer 6 months later, but no-one advertised that fact!
The rich and idle in Asia seem to think that rhino horn is a hang-over cure… they should save their money and buy a Berocca for all their friends – that’ll make the drug company happy.
One evening on a night drive, we met one of the anti-poaching guys, who spends every night driving around the park with several rifles and firearms, clad in bullet proof vest. As he says, if he finds some poachers, they will start shooting, so it will always end up in a shoot out. As we are talking to him, he notices a car that has stopped on the side of the road by the boundary fence of the reserve. Someone will check on that, because there is no reason to stop on that stretch of road, and it could be someone casing the joint preparatory to a night raid.
As a result of the poaching, no-one talks openly about the animals, not where they are located or how many there are. We have been advised not to post photos directly from our phones to social media websites, because our mobile devices contain embedded GPS coordinates and the increasingly sophisticated criminal gangs trawl the internet for just such information to decide where it’s worth going in. What beasts humans are.
And having seen those adolescents nuzzling and snuggling up to each other, it’s hard to see them as just short-tempered, short-sighted beasts.
In our second week we visited the rehab center for the reserve, and learned about Hope, a white rhino that was poached at another reserve. She was found three days later, with half her face hacked off and maggots in the wound. She was taken to Shamwari to see what needed to be done for her. See video on You-tube . She’s still there, and she’s still alive.
The vet nurse explained that the poachers seem to think the horn needs to be taken with the anchoring bone, so they literally de-face rhinos, when all they really need to do is saw the top off. Hope survives, but since her nose is cut open, she may never make it back to her natural home. If we are really lucky, she will be able to be a mum: we need as many baby rhino that we can get, since the gestation and time to sexual maturity is five to seven years for females and 10 to 12 for males – it’s a very long time to repopulation.
Go to Save The Survivors for more information, and some really confronting photos.
Will someone PLEASE, PLEASE tell these stupid humans to chew their own fingernails off if they want to cure themselves of cancer or a hangover???!!!! These magnificent creatures deserve to be left alone.
Of course if I had my way, I’d cut off the poachers’ noses and leave them in the sun to rot – better still do it to the people who buy powdered horn for stupid superstitious reasons…. But I’m not a nice person.