There are many species that currently exist on the fringe of life in our modern world. They are being pressured by human sprawl, infrastructure development, and resource utilization from people. One species that has become increasingly at risk of extinction is the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). This species was once quite numerous throughout its range, but its numbers have dropped considerably due to poaching. Only might ask why this creature is being poached. The answer sits atop its mighty head, in the form of a horn made out of keratin (the same protein in our fingernails, animals claws, and hooves).
The black rhino ranges from southern Africa to east Africa and even central Africa. The subspecies known as the western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011. The situation is so dire for some subspecies that scientists have begun finding ways to preserve their gametes in laboratories for future artificial insemination and embryo transfer. Some organizations have even looked into bringing rhinos to Australia or the US to establish a captive breeding population that can be used for horn harvesting. People hope that a constant, controlled supply of rhino horn may dampen the illegal methods of acquiring rhino horn, while not requiring that any rhinos be killed. The rhinos would be sedated and their horns sawed off, then allowed to regrow. The alternative used by many poachers is to kill the animal and take its horn, which obviously is not a sustainable approach.
When I was in southern Africa, I did not see a rhinoceros nor did I find any sign of one. However, I did get pulled over by the BDF (Botswana Defense Force) near the Caprivi Strip. They were on the lookout for rhino poachers, and my group’s car looked suspicious to them. Once they saw that our car contained a few shyly smiling blond women and men wearing colorful clothes, their diagnosis was quick: Americans. Through my studies in southern Africa, I found that the country of Botswana takes the problem of rhino conservation very seriously, as does its neighbor to the west, Namibia. One conservation group in Namibia recently released a song about rhino conservation in an attempt to educate the region. One of the opening lines states “What are we gonna tell our children when it’s all gone?” The singer then shakes his head in despair.
This is really what it comes down to for me. What will we tell our children if our natural world keeps disappearing for the human race’s own temporary gains? This problem is on our shoulders, and only we can come up with a solution to help solve it.