Thursday, October 16, 2014


Rhinoceros are perhaps the most endangered of the large animals in the world and the reason is they are being killed in huge numbers for an Asian market that believes the horn is an aphrodisiac and capable of curing cancer. Even more grotesquely, having rhino power or a horn to display has now become somewhat of a status symbol. I recently read of one Chinese girl of 19 who was given some rhino powder by her father. She uses it to avoid hangovers. All this in spite of the fact that you can get exactly the same ‘benefit’ by chewing your fingernails since it has exactly the same chemical composition.

With poverty at the level it is in Africa, the $1000 or so that a poacher can get for a single horn is great incentive. The counter argument that the game lodges employ hundreds of local people at a decent wage does help, but the dealers are the same folks who deal in drugs and human trafficking so it is dangerous to work to stop the poaching.

Our guide, Riaan, told us that many small game reserves have given up trying to keep rhinos because the cost of purchasing and protecting a rhino is too high. Buying a rhino legally for a game reserve can cost over $65,000. Even spending a lot of money of protection is no guarantee that the rhino will not be killed negating that large investment. One reserve we visited last year in Zambia had 24 full-time rangers guarding only eight rhinos.

Zulu Nyala is working on a different approach. Mr. Shaw, the owner, asks donations to purchase rhinos for the reserve.  He is installing the best protection system money can buy and hopes eventually to be able to have a surplus of rhinos to give them to smaller reserves. Then their only expense will be install a state of the art security system. This reserve recently had a stroke of good luck when one of the two rhinos they purchased turned out to be pregnant so they got three for the price of two. They sell small bracelets here as one fund-raiser and also accept donations. The best part of this scheme is that 100% of the money goes directly to purchasing more animals. There is no overhead which can comsume as much as 90% of some fund-raising schemes.

Black Rhino - All the others are white.
The Black Rhino is in front. You can see the differences clearly.
Rhinoceros come in two varieties: white and black. The name has nothing to do with the color. White rhinos are larger and graze the grasses along the ground. Black rhinos are smaller and browse the vegetation on trees and shrubs. Whites, therefore, have a wide mouth and longer neck to facilitate getting lots of grass. Blacks have a more pointed mouth capable of browsing the trees and shrubs. Blacks are more endangered only because they have been easier to kill and had smaller numbers to begin with. As long as they remain part of the cultural ignorance of Asians, they will remain endangered. We can only hope that knowledge will come before extinction.

The rest of the pictures are of a group of five rhinos we encountered having fun play fighting. Even the youngster got into the act. 


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