Posts Tagged With: hope
One of the most unique and endangered rhino species is the Sumatran. These hairy beasts are lesser in size than the rest of the rhinos, and in numbers. With only about 100 known individuals left, they seem to be on the fast track to extinction.
Yet, there is a glimmer of hope.
With such critically low numbers, every birth is a big deal. When it comes to mothers, the Sumatran Ratu is a star. Living in the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia she gave birth in 2012, and is now expecting a second baby due in May.
This coincides with the recent return of Harapan, formerly from the Cincinnati Zoo, to the wild. In late 2015 he made the epic journey across the globe to the SRS, with the goal of eventually doing his part in perpetuating the species.
But perhaps what tops it all is this week’s discovery of 15 previously unknown individual Sumatrans.
In response to this news, the Indonesian government is quickly converting a former gold mine into a sanctuary for them. With hopes to safely transfer them, they will be guarded by a rhino protection unit just like the ones in place at the SRS, which have successfully staved off poaching for more than 7 years.
In 2013, sadly the most popular Christmas gift in Vietnam was rhino horn. The use of horn, as well as other rare animal products is deeply embedded in Vietnamese culture, and is a current trend of a luxury item within the country’s elite.
Vietnam has the tragic distinction of being the country MOST responsible for the growing demand for rhino horn. The majority of consumers are mid to upper income males, conforming to the egotistical social pressures of ‘the rarer the product, the more “valuable” or “cool” it is to have.’
Knowing the market, and being an influential businessman, Richard Branson has become an advocate and voice in the fight against horn use in the country. In September, he spent an evening in Ho Chi Minh City with the country’s elite.
“Listening to 25 of the country’s leading entrepreneurs around the table, I quickly learned how much the issue has already become part of a national conversation – one that has caused great embarrassment for a country of 90 million people that is rapidly entering the global market. But change is difficult to come by, stifled by a lack of interest in conservation issues and also by insufficient enforcement. On the upside, as I learned over dinner, younger Vietnamese seem to understand the seriousness of the problem and no longer wish to be associated with these harmful habits.” -Richard Branson
Yet according to a survey of Vietnamese youth (15-40), conducted by our Rhino Alliance partners, WildAct, there is little understanding of animal welfare. Despite the conservation education campaigns that have been introduced, there are a great deal of Vietnamese youth still wanting to own wildlife products.
It is difficult to obtain true numbers indicating actual growth or decline in usage, but the number of poached rhinos this year is at an all time high, with at least 1500 poached in 2015.
Wildlife consumption and use is a social event in the country. It is a matter of changing tradition and trends. To better understand the difficulty of this, imagine if turkeys became endangered; could we convince people to stop consuming them every November?
In the meantime, how many rhino horns will be gifted this Christmas? How much longer can they sustain the slaughter and demand?
The silver lining is that in WildAct’s survery, nearly 98% of the youth agree the government should do more for wildlife conservation. Continued education and empowering the youth is the key to curbing the demand.
Everyday there is another poaching, most of the time another life taken. But for the “lucky” few, they survive.
For those rhinos, it’s not just a matter of providing a bit of veterinary care, then sending them on their way. The physical and emotional toll it takes lasts the rest of their days.
A couple of months ago we were in Kariega Reserve and had the privilege of meeting one of my heroes, Thandi, the rhino who cheated what seemed certain death.
On our second siting of Thandi and “baby” Thembi, it was immediately obvious from a distance that something was different. As she moved through the grass, happily grazing with Thembi not far behind, the sun shone off her face showing a glint of red. Moving in closer, there was no doubt it was bloody and raw.
After numerous skin grafts, being anesthetized and treated, this is as good as it will ever be for her. Even the best of veterinary care and creative “bandaging”, cannot hold up to rhino life. There is a bull in the area who does what comes natural, the equivalent of rhino flirting. Through pushes and bumps, the thin skin over her nasal area isn’t as sufficient as the protection of her own horn.
She doesn’t seem to be in pain, as she happily munches her grass or gives Thembi “love taps”. In fact, the blood was the only sign something was wrong.
But as Thembi grows older, Thandi will mate again, hopefully making Thembi a big sister. Rhino mating is not a gentle process!
The Kariega staff and veterinary team keep a close eye on their star. She is in good hands, but seeing the occasional re-opening of the wound is a constant reminder of her struggle, of the long road we are all traveling in the poaching war to prevent other rhinos from the same horrible fate.
San Diego, CA-last hope for the Northern White Rhinos.
There are presently only three Northern Whites’ left in Kenya and one in California.
All previous plans to breed and re-populate the species have heartbreakingly failed. It has come to the final hour.
In a last attempt to save the species, six Southern White Rhinos have been flown from South Africa to San Diego in an attempt to be implanted with embryos of the Northern Whites.
If the procedures are successful , they would be put to use to preserve endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos as well.
Although researchers are optimistic, success will not be fast enough; as they estimate it could take 10-15 years to see a successful outcome. In the meantime, the four living rhinos are aging, and running out of time.
The Northern White Rhino used to range over parts of Eastern and Central Africa (Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo). In 1960, 2,000 northerns existed.
In August the Cincinnati Zoo officially announced they would be saying goodbye to Harapan. A bittersweet but important move for the Sumatran rhinos.
Soon he will set out on an epic journey to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) in Indonesia. This move is in hopes that he will be able to breed and help increase the dwindling numbers in their population. There are only approximately 100 Sumatrans left in the entire world, with only 9 existing in captivity.
The zoo has held the distinction of having the first successful birth in captivity in 112 years. From 2001 to 2012, Emi the Sumatran gave birth to three offspring; Andalas, Suci and Harapan. In 2007 Andalas was sent to the SRS and successfully bred. Unfortunately Suci has passed away from the same genetic disposition as her mother, Emi.
Now it is Harapan’s turn to join his brother in Indonesia, where he will have 3 potential mates to choose from and hopefully continue his famous mother’s bloodline.
“Ultimately, the responsibility for saving this magnificent species now lies squarely on the shoulders of our Indonesian colleagues. Our hope is that they succeed beyond all of our wildest dreams,” said Dr. Teri Roth, director of the zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife CREW).
In addition to this urgent move, it was announced on September 22 (World Rhino Day) that there is another Sumatran at the SRS who is pregnant! This baby is the second offspring sired by Andalas.
“To have a confirmed breeding success at SRS weeks before we send Andalas’ younger sibling, Harapan, to the sanctuary for the same purpose is encouraging and fuels the hope that Harapan will also contribute to the survival of his species, “ stated Roth.
Back stateside, after 2 weeks in the bush… we learned so much, met fantastic people with great minds and passion for wildlife, and were able to re-focus as we looked into both current and new strategies in our part in the poaching war.
Starting off in the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) , Fight for Rhinos sponsored the dehorning of one of two poaching survivors, and personally sponsored the other. They are well cared for and coming along nicely in their rehabilitation.
We left HESC feeling satisfied and productive after meeting with such professional and experienced people. As we arrived at the airport, a chopper flew low overhead. A moment later we heard of a possible poaching.
A feeling of dread set in, mind racing, as we wondered about the rhinos we had just seen, both in the Centre and in the bush. Was it one of them?
Unfortunately, being anywhere in Africa it seems wi-fi is spotty at best. It was a couple of days before we heard that not just one, but FOUR rhino were poached in Hoedspruit.
Funny that it should matter being there, as opposed to hearing about it from behind the laptop. But emotion doesn’t often make sense. And sitting in the airport, I felt like we should have been able to help them somehow.
It took some time to shake that feeling, it weighed heavy on me. But having so much further to go, so many more people to meet, I tried to focus on the rest of our agenda.
Thankfully there were many parts of our visit that brought us hope. Veterinary staff, APU teams, guides and rangers alike helped shed light on their needs, their vision, their eagerness to push forward and protect the rhinos.
A member of the HESC team touched my heart as she gifted me a bottle of Rhino Tears wine (the purchase of which supports rhino conservation). I immediately decided if it made it’s way home unscathed by the airlines, we will not be indulging until the poaching crisis reaches a turning point. It sits in my kitchen as a reminder of what’s still left to do.
So as we celebrate another World Rhino Day, we’re really celebrating another year with the existence of rhinos in the wild. Another precious year, another chance to get it right.
We appreciate your support, and look forward to sharing our new strategies and plans soon. In the meantime, keep sharing, tweeting, and raising awareness! Together we will keep making a difference.
We’re off to South Africa, home of over 75% of the world’s remaining rhinos. Meetings, discussions, observations; and doing what every other passionate, serious rhino advocate is doing-searching for the holy grail.
We’re all equipping our rangers, delivering milk to the orphans and trying to educate the masses; standing our ground, constantly searching for THE answer, “the game changer” solution to end the poaching once and for all.
Maybe there isn’t one. But from the APUs, the education campaigns and individual support, we are attacking the crisis from every angle, and we ARE having an impact.
- In the latest survey in China, 24% fewer people believe rhino horn is a medicinal cure. Education IS working.
- The number of rhinos poached outside of Kruger National Park has decreased.
- There have been 51 more arrests than the same time last year.
It’s difficult to get past the photos of faceless, bloodied rhinos and see the hope. But it’s there, and it’s important we take note of it. Without the small steps of progress, this war would be over and not only the rhinos would have lost, but the other wildlife that are in line to be the next “medicine or trophy or status symbol”.
Of course we’ll still be searching for THE elusive final solution, but in the meantime we have our noses to the grindstone and continue to fight for each ranger, for every rhino, and for the preservation of our wildlife. We salute our fellow conservation groups, and are grateful for individuals who advocate for rhinos. Your support keeps the spark ignited, keeps the search going and keeps hope alive.
Keep the faith!
By now most of you have likely seen the heartbreaking photos of Hope, the poached rhino who has by some miracle survived despite destruction of half her face. The pain and fear she is enduring, the long precarious road to recovery, the trauma that marks her in ways we can’t even fathom – this is not even the worst of it. The worst is knowing she will not be the last.
Thandi, Lions Den, Dingle Dell…they have all come before her. They have all endured being darted/sedated, treated, fashioned with metal plates, screws, sutures, only to have it done again, and again, and again. Yet, no rhino has literally survived having half her face brutally chopped away.
This is the extreme of “saving” an animal. But it’s the norm for poaching.
Hard to look at, bloody and heartbreaking. But she doesn’t have the luxury of looking away. Neither do the veterinarians who look after her and listen to her cries day after day.
Take the pain and fury you feel for her and use it. Be strong enough to look, be bold enough to share:
*Poaching of rhinos is a global crisis.
*It kills rangers AND poachers
* It creates tension in communities,
*It destroys jobs by wiping out the ecotourism industry
*It adds to funding of terrorist operations
*It’s wiping out the last of a 50 million year old animal.
For more on the survivors see: Poaching Survivor Lions Den,