Lately the majority of my conservation efforts have been focused on the issue of rhino poaching as a good friend of mine had his rhinos poached in June of 2011, rhinos that I had personally seen and photographed. So it seemed only natural that my first real post about conservation is on rhinos. Over the last few years rhino poaching has seen a drastic increase due to its perceived value in traditional Asian medicines. In actuality the composition of rhino horn is similar to fingernails and has no true medicinal value.

This market has fueled a killing spree. In South Africa alone the year 2010 saw 333 rhinos poached, 2011 totaled another 448 (www.sanparks.org/about/news/default.php?id=1845) and as of this posting 2012 has already seen the deaths of 160 rhinos by the guns of poachers. As we exit this full moon (the poachers moon) period I expect to hear of another mass murder of the magnificent creatures. Another tragic statistic, though not from Africa, of this brutality was the complete eradication of the javan rhino from mainland asia. In October of 2011, after a year long survey, the javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam, which was its final foothold in mainland Asia (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/10/25/141688105/wwf-javan-rhinoceros-extinct-in-vietnam). As stated earlier these animals are killed simply for their horns. Some of the better funded poaching syndicates have taken to darting the rhinos and hacking the horns off of living animals, many of which die later from disease or trauma.

 

This slaughter has to stop. At current poaching rates rhinos in Africa will soon be faced with the threat of extinction just like their Asian cousins. We must take action and we must do it now. However, rhino supporters cannot agree on the proper course of action. Instead of banding together we have found ourselves divided along party lines preservationist vs. conservationist.  Generally speaking the preservationist party is made of animals rights activists and similar mentalities while the conservationist side consists of people in support of regulated use of rhinos. Preservationists believe the rhinos should be completely protected and no rhinos should be used for legal trade or hunting. Conservationists believe that legal trade and hunting is necessary to save the rhinos as it provides incentive for private land owners to breed and raise rhinos. As a hunter ( I have no intention of ever killing a rhino however) I tend to favor the conservationist side.

Regardless of which side we fall on the end goal should be ensuring the survival of Africa’s rhinos. If we cannot put aside our differences long enough to work together on that goal then our precious rhino are doomed. There are many ways to get involved and help with the effort. The most important is spreading the word, educating the public and rallying them to the cause is necessary to the success of this effort. There are also several good rhino conservation organizations which can always use volunteers or donations (do not donate without checking the legitimacy of an organization).

The rhino is a magnificent creature and a true symbol of Africa. I for one will not give up the fight to save this beautiful animal.

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