One of the biggest obstacles I’ve experienced in my calling to bring awareness to the crisis of rhino poaching is apathy. Often I hear “Why should I care?” There are other things happening in the world-cancer, rape, poverty…the rhino is “just an animal”.
My answer is this: firstly yes, the world is riddled with problems. Everyone carries their own passion for something. One person may wage the war on poverty, while another aims to bring attention to breast cancer. That does NOT mean they don’t care about anything else, just that they have a specific concern that’s close to their hearts. Mine is obviously rhinos.
Secondly there are a multitude of reasons for everyone to care about rhinos; it goes much deeper than “just an animal”.
1. The Rhino is considered an Umbrella Species. This means if you take them out of the picture it will heavily affect the integrity of ecosystems and the survival of other species.
2. People will not stop with Rhino. If they become extinct, the poaching will not end, it will simply carry over to a “replacement” species. The Asian market is the biggest threat to rhino due to the myths of the horn curing ailments, this belief already carries over to using other animals as well , they would simply turn to more of that. The decimation of other species would be imminent.
3. The poaching and demand for horn and ivory is linked to terrorism and drug activity. The groups “sponsoring” and profiting from the horn are using it to fund their organizations, which are terrorist groups and drug cartels.
4. People affected by the poaching crisis are being murdered, not “just the animals”. The rangers are being killed, the poachers are being killed. Now this insatiable demand has even prompted individuals to attempt to steal horns from museums and zoos, which are putting employees at these places in danger as well.
5. The Rhino is an economic value to the people of Africa. Just as some people unfortunately find a dollar value to the death of the creature, the people of Africa can benefit from the life of them through the tourism industry. The safaris are marketed to people wanting to see the “Big 5”, of which the Rhino is one of.
6. It is our personal responsibility to future generations to care for our planet. It is very possible the next generation may not ever see a rhino, except in a book. The same reasons we should care about pollution, recycling, environment preservation…
So kudos to each of you who wage your own war; “Endelea Kupigana” (Swahili for Keep Fighting)! Mine is rhinos, and until there is a universal understanding of the importance of saving the rhino, I will persevere.