At least the white rhino isn’t. He’s a curious beast who would rather retreat from conflict if he can. There’s just one problem. Although he has a sharp sense of smell – I'm told that his olfactory passages are larger than his whole brain – his eyesight is very poor indeed. Even when he smells or hears danger, he can’t see too well so in his panic to run away, he might choose the wrong direction and instead run headlong towards danger – i.e. you.
Let’s face it, the only real predator an adult rhino needs to worry about is man.
And it’s all because of those unfortunate horns on their faces. The fibres of the horns are packed together tightly so as to make them hard enough to poke a hole through a car door. Even though they’re only keratin like your fingernails and hair, they’re pretty heavy; an adult male black rhino can carry about 3.5 kilograms of horn on his face.
Unfortunately, many people are only too keen to relieve him of that load because rhino horn is in hot demand in the Far East, particularly China and Vietnam, for its suspected medicinal properties. It even appears to be readily available in Vietnam in retail outlets and via hospitals. Ground into a powder, it’s used in combination with other bits and bobs as a potion for everything from cancer to penis envy.
In Yemen too, it used to be much sought-after for making the dagger sheaths given to young men initiated into manhood, though demand appears to have declined somewhat in recent years.
None of this is good for the rhino, which is facing a serious onslaught from poaching. And we’re not talking small two-bit operations, but big business armed with big guns, even helicopters. Such big business that these guys could probably teach the Colombian drug lords a thing or two.
Some 160 rhinos were brutally poached in South Africa in the first six months of 2010 alone. In response to this grave problem, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) has launched The Rhino Security Project to protect our remaining rhinos.
If you’re concerned that we’re losing one rhino every one-and-a-half days, and you know of illegal or suspicious activities regarding rhino poaching or the sale of their horns, please phone the anonymous Rhino Poaching Hotline at 082 404-2128. (And, of course, don’t forget to blow your vuvuzela or toot your horn at 1pm today to show your support for Rhino Day.)
Let's make sure that our children and grandchildren will still be able to see and experience these ancient beasts in the wild. They’ve been roaming the Earth for something like 50 million years; wouldn’t it be disgraceful if we become known as the generation that finally wiped them off the face of the planet?
More about rhino poaching
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