UPDATE: Thandi gave birth to a baby rhino yesterday at 8.50am. The little one may have to have its horn removed as a pre-emptive measure if the poaching problem continues to increase, although often the poachers take revenge on these ones despite them having no horn to remove. Read the nature reserve’s report of the birth
Read Thandi’s story below.
South Africa has a terrible incidence of rhino poaching. There are sites with statistics but I find them too depressing reading. Up to 9 rhinos a day are killed for their horn, which is then sold on the black market in Asia for more money than gold. It is (falsely) believed to cure cancer, beat impotence and all kinds of ailments plus bring luck. One rhino horn can sell for a quarter of a million US dollars in Vietnam.
The numbers of rhino being killed is rising substantially each year and for the first time last year I actually began to think the only way out of this awful situation would be to legalise the trade in rhino horn. It would cause the price to drop, making it less attractive to criminal syndicates. Harvesting the horn would also be able to be done more humanely as rhino horn is made up of keratin (like hair) and it can be simply shaved off in small amounts without harming the animal. The horn itself is made up of thousands of compacted strands of hair.
Another second option would be to surgically remove the horns from calves as soon as they start to grow, making them less attractive to poachers. However, this does result in some ‘revenge attacks’ with poachers killing them anyway. It also makes the rhino vulnerable in the wild.
A third option is to bring the attention of the world to this tragedy and put pressure on the EU and other such economic unions trading with Vietnam and other countries who believe in the power of rhino horn to put in place stricter trade rules.
What goes without saying is that there should be longer prison sentences for poachers, because now they are out on bail and back poaching before nightfall. Of course they usually work for syndicates who are professional criminals and are hardly ever prosecuted.
In the area of South Africa I come from, there are many many game farms and safari lodges. We are in a-malaria free area and can offer the big five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo) and even the big seven (the big five plus the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Shark). The incidents of rhino poaching in this area affect rhino we know and love.
On March 3, 2012 Kariega Game Reserve was hit by poachers who drugged and hacked the horns off of five rhino. Three died and two survived – Themba and Thandi. Themba died of his injuries three weeks later but the brave Thandi fought for her life and is now happy and healthy again. The before photos are too gory for me to want to put them up here but the photos below really warm my heart. She is running with her herd and back to normal. The whole community supported her care and rehabilitation through many months of operations and procedures. Dr William Fowlds, the veterinarian who treated her, gave her all his time and energy and developed several groundbreaking procedures for caring for rhinos who survive poaching. The video of him sobbing his heart out when Themba died caused so many people to become involved in this important issue. The most amazing thing for me was that even after being poached, she showed no fear for the team who were trying to help her. What a brave wonderful girl!
One of the people who love her dearly wrote this to accompany the above photo:
A recent pic of Thandi ((Xhosa for ‘nurturing love’)
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum
If you are in South Africa, buy a bracelet to support the eradication of rhino poaching.