Grab a Rhino by His Horn…
What I am about to write here may offend somebody. That somebody may be you, so consider yourself as being warned.
I would like to discuss the revolting, and illegal, trade of rhinceros horns that still runs rampant in our civilised and sophisticated 21st century world. There are five extant species of rhinoceros: white, black, Indian, Javan and Sumatran. The populations of these animals have experienced a tremendous collapse. It is highly unlikely that for example the Javan rhino will survive to the next century, if even the next decade. And why is this? The cause for the destruction of rhinos is, yes, Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Humans are destroying the habitats of rhinos in Asia and Africa and, moreover, trade in their horns, blood and other body parts due to superstitious and obsolete beliefs about the perceived magical and healing properties of these commodities. It is believed, for example, that a rhinoceros horn increases the sexual capability in human males. If this was so, onychophagy and eating hair should have the same effect, as rhinoceros horn consists of ceratine. So, if a guy has a limp dick, he should ask if he could chew on someone’s hair. It might help. Never mind seeing a doctor…
Rhino’s horn is particularily sought after in traditional Chinese and other Asian alternative medicine, as are other ingredients pulled out of endangered species (tiger’s eyes and penises, bear bile etc.) The rarer, the better, it seems. It is even claimed that rhino’s horn is a cure-all medicine. But practicioners of traditional Chinese medicine are not only ones seeking after the omnipotent horns. There are also collectors, who just have to get the horn or head of an endangered animal on their wall. Again, the more endangered an animal is, the sweeter the trophy.
Protecting rhinos is as essential as saving the whales, elephants and other endangered species (whether flora or fauna). A rhino fertilizes the ground with its faeces that also provide food for numerous insects such as dung beetles and flies. Removing a species radically changes the ecosystem and plunges it into imbalance. This ecological perspective is not the only one supporting the view of protecting endangered species. There is also the moral aspect; slaughtering endangered species out of greed and in the name of “cultural tradition” is is indefensible. If a cultural practice, such as traditional (and in many cases ineffectual) medicine threatens a species, the practice is not worth maintaining. It should also be remembered that oftentimes the poachers are poor people who are lured to killing endangered animals for peanuts: the sums the poachers are paid for committing a severe crime and risking their freedom and health in the possible encountering of law enforcement or park rangers are very small in comparison to the black market prices of rhino horns, ivory and other body parts of endangered species. Poaching also greatly threatens other animals and humans, as poachers use a wide array of methods to kill their prey, ranging from poison baits to explosives, landmines and assault rifles. The black market trade also feeds the local conflicts, as guerrillas and militias fund their campaigns by poaching, thus bringning more chaos and suffering to areas already stricken with imbalance, conflict and insecurity.
It is therefore clear that whether looked from a humane/moralistic perspective or from a conservational, environmentalist angle, the poaching of rhinos or any other species is detestable and should be fought against more vigorously by law enforcement agencies, governments, grassroots organizations and individual people. It is our responsibility to make amends for the havoc our species is currently wreaking. Educating people about the balance of ecosystems and the endangered status of the rhinos and many other animals, improving the living standards of the local people in areas affected by poaching and meteing out severe punishments on the persons dealing in animal contraband are the methods we need to utilize, if we are to preserve at least some parts of wild nature for the future.
White rhino and young taken from: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/white-rhinoceros/
The image depicting a rhino killed by poachers in Swaziland taken from www.swazitrails.co.sz
Horn tablet image taken from: gothunts.com
More info on the subject: http://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/threats_to_rhino/poaching_for_traditional_chinese_medicine