What do you know about Rhinos?
On a recent trip to Uganda I had the immense pleasure of seeing a rhino for the first time. A rhino in its natural habitat and on its home turf, Africa. I must say on most visits to the zoo, rhinos had never been considered a main attraction to me. If my memory serves correctly, I glanced and went looking for the lions. So, this was the first time I SAW them. I saw them for how massive and powerful they were. They were.. wrinkly and big and beautiful.
Here are some of the facts.
Rhinoceroses are rightfully named for their nose, from the Greek translation, “rhino” means “nose” and “ceros” means “horn”. Yes, it’s a little backwards but, you get the jest. There are 5 different species of rhino found around the world. Africa is where most people think of this unique creature residing, but, 3 of the 5 species actually reside in India and Indonesia. Only the black and white rhinos have made home on the African continent.
The largest of the rhino species is the white rhino. All rhinos will typically weigh over 2000lbs while the white rhino can weigh more than 7000lbs. If you’re like me you always see those numbers in kilograms, so seeing it in pounds is quite mind boggling and makes this next fact even crazier.. or scarier if you ever find yourself in a foot race against one of these guys. Rhinos can run anywhere between 30-40 mph. If you need some perspective, Olympian Usain Bolt has only ever run as fast as 28 mph.
Mother rhinos will carry their babies for a total of 15-16 months. With that slow of a gestation period, it is no wonder it is of the upmost importance to protect them. They cannot function in the wild if the rate of them being taken out is so much faster than the rate they are born.
Why would anyone poach them?
Now that you know a little more about these unique animals, it seems odd that any person would want to kill them for no reason. To most people poaching seems senseless, and it is. However, on the black market in China and Vietnam, rhino horn sells for up to $60,000 per kilo (35 ounces or 2 Pounds). Most rhino horns weight between 3-6 pounds with the white rhino horn weighing up to 8.5 pounds. For those who choose to poach, the trade off might seem worth it, especially if it means a better life in a country it can be hard to move up the ladder in.
Without empathizing with the enemy, it is easy to see why people poach. However, it is brutally unjust and must be stopped.
Traditional Asian medicines call for the use of ground up rhino horn to combat illnesses. Anything from fever, to gout, to snakebites and demon possession. If you’re heavily into traditional Chinese medicine, you are looking for some Rhino Horn. These efforts to enhance their medicines have been proven by multiple studies to be empty. The Zoological Society of London as well as the Chinese University of Hong Kong, have both done extensive studies and come up with the same conclusion. Rhino horn has no medical properties.
Rhino horn is made up mostly of keratin. Sound familiar? That is because your hair and nails are also made of keratin. A rhinos horn is not to much different from horses hooves or your own fingernails, and similarly, they can grow back.
The use of rhino horn for medicinal purposes goes back 2,000 years. It is a true testament of the faith this culture puts into its traditions. Without proof that this mass of horn advances the health of its users, it is nothing more than a very expensive placebo. The real benefits of it are from the power of the mind. It is strictly a tool of comfort.
If you look at the charts, rhino poaching has actually been on the decline. In 2014 an estimated 1,215 rhinos were poached. In 2019 roughly 594 rhinos had been targeted. With rhino populations down, this is not a huge surprise. It is so important to grow the populations while continuing to have poaching levels drop. The studies on this subject can be messy. There are many variables that go into the issue.
What can you do?
With the efforts of many fantastic conservation efforts, rhinos still have hope. There are many passionate organizations out there fighting for the rhino every day. Getting involved could be simply finding an effort, big or small and donating or sharing their stories. It could also mean going on an adventure of a lifetime and volunteering for school or the experience. The effort I visited in Uganda is eager for volunteers that are passionate about conservation and education. When asked about the volunteer programs the head veterinarian from the Rhino Fund Uganda, lit up and eagerly dove into internships and programs they offer. If this interests you, even in the slightest, it is absolutely worth furthering your education and involvement on the matter.
Psalm of the wild was able to get close up to the largest species of rhino on a recent visit to Uganda. The white rhino. The massive animals were a thrill to be around and it only enhanced the already intense desire to protect them. To do just that, we created a special bracelet focused on the colors in both the rhino and its natural habitat. Handmade by women in Uganda, the proceeds go to support these rhino efforts. These handmade bracelets make a beautiful statement piece while also investing in the lives these beloved rhinos.