Today is World Rhino Day. Here in South Africa we have as a nation, been horrified by the increased wholesale slaughter of these creatures for their horns - a chunk of keratin, no more, no less - over recent years. This year alone 210 of them have been poached and the population has declined by 90% since 1970. I was in Zambia five years ago where we saw the very last white rhino left in the country, being followed at a distance by his personal armed bodyguard to try and protect him. I wonder if he's still alive? Game rangers and conservationists have resorted to removing the horns to try and prevent their destruction, but the animals are often still shot for the stump that has to remain intact for them to survive. In some cultures it is believed that the horn has medicinal properties as a cure for cancer, and as an aphrodisiac.
A brave oncologist in Malaysia has recently spoken out against this myth - as he says, you may as well chew your fingernails...
The good news is that this week police have arrested eleven people, including two vets, two safari operators and a professional hunter whom they believe to be kingpins in a rhino poaching syndicate that has been relentless and professional in their killing, with more arrests on the cards. But as long as the demand continues, somebody else will doubtless step in.
Thanks for reading - not sure what good it will do, but the more aware people are I'm sure, the better.