If the current rate of poaching continues, rhinos in the wild will be extinct by 2020. That is just 6 years away!
According to Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation,
“There will probably be no free-living rhinos as the remaining numbers will be fenced off in military-style compounds which are alarmed and heavily guarded by armed patrols.”
Are we prepared to let this happen? How will the world look without them?
Rhinos are an umbrella species. This means their survival or demise directly impacts the survival or demise of other species of mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants. They play a big role in their ecosystem.
When they browse, they keep the areas trimmed, making paths and more accessible areas for smaller mammals. They also enrich the soil and help plants by spreading seed through their dung.
In fact according to an article in Smithsonian.com, rhino-inhabited areas had about 20 times more grazing lawns (or patches of prime eating grass) than areas without rhinos. This effects not just rhino’s diet, but smaller grazing animals such as zebra, gazelle, and antelope.
Without rhinos to diversify the plant life and help create grazing spots, the African savanna may become a much emptier place, devastating more than just the rhinos.
Many parts of Africa rely heavily on the tourism business. Probably the biggest incentive for safaris is the “Big Five” (the elephant, rhino, lion, cape buffalo and leopard) With four of the five endangered or on their way to endangered status, tourism is absolutely threatened.
Without rhinos, there is no tourism and no tour guides, drivers, lodge employees, restaurant employees, or souvenir shop employees. South Africa and Kenya are arguably two of the biggest benefactors of tourism via safaris. With existing unemployment rates of 24% (SA) and 40% (K), there is no room for lessening job opportunities.
It may be cliché, but it is absolute truth-we have one planet. We are guardians of this planet; the only ones who are capable of devastating and destroying it, and likewise the only ones who can right this.
Rhinos are one of the 16,306 endangered species in the world. They have all come to this point from the recklessness of humans through habitat loss, hunting, and pollution. This can be brought to a halt through education and awareness, and stricter laws for violators.
BUT we must ask ourselves-do we REALLY want to save the planet? Do we have the will to work together-ignoring borders, setting aside self-importance and ultimately having respect, not just for each other, but for ALL species? If enough of us can do this, we don’t have to wonder what will happen without rhinos. And we may just find our own dignity and humanity along the way.