Black Rhino - Endangered And Poached For Its Horn

The Black Rhino and its quest to stay alive and preserved.

The Black Rhino.

He stands amongst the bushes and shrubbery, watching and listening for danger. This beautiful majestic beast we Africans have come to know and love, named the Black Rhino. Though he looks around, his eyesight is not the best. In fact, the black rhino has very bad eyesight and struggles to make out objects that cross his path. To this effect, you will often find that a rhino begins to charge before it asks questions. It is no wonder that he stands at full alert, as the black rhino is near extinction due to poaching. Poachers hunt them for their horns which are believed to have great medicinal value. It is both used as a fever breaking powder and is believed by many Asian countries to increase a man’s libido, therefore making it a sought after commodity on the black market. Knives with handles made from the rhino’s horn (called “black gold”) are used as coming of age gifts for young men in the near Yemen.

They take mud baths often against the African heat and this in turn attracts all kinds of insects which irritates them. In steps the opeckers or tick birds, who lives in a symbiotic relationship with the black rhino. The birds eat the insects, thereby keeping the rhino free from constant irritations. Though we call them “black”, their skin is actually a greyish colour and this beast of the wild grows to weigh up to 1770 kg. It is around 4 metres long and 1 metre high at the shoulder and has two prominent horns, with the longer one averaging about 50 cm. It is almost hard to believe the magnificent horns that the animals are poached for, is made up of millions of tightly compacted hair like fibres.

Being an animal conservationist, I grew up hearing stories about Africa’s big five: Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and the rhino. Often I would watch nature shows just to get to see them as I don’t live near the bush and I would wonder how they were able to eat the thorn bushes with their pointy lips and not get hurt terribly. Now, being a mother, I had hoped that I would one day be able to show these magnificent animals to my own children. It would seem though, that there might not be any Black Rhino’s left by the time my children are grown.

It is a sad thought that, at the rate which these poor animals are killed, many nature reserves have now been forced to guard the animals by day with loaded guns and putting them in caged areas at night to keep them safe. It doesn’t help that the rhino’s reproductive system is so slow – 1 calf every 2-4 years and the gestation period is 17 months. Besides being killed for their horns, the rhino’s natural habitat (open dry scrub, mountain forest and thickets) are now being threatened by humans who use the ground for farmland. It seems that the Black Rhino’s only hope of survival would be if its biggest enemy, humans, could somehow change their tune and adhere to the prohibited trade in rhino horn, as prescribed under Appendix 1 of CITES. But the question remains… is it too late? With all the efforts of nature conservationists out there, and for the sake of my children, I hope not.

(Sourced from Authors own Safari trips)


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Patrick Regoniel
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MeChelle Rabot, Phd
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