People have been up in arms about the attention and resources directed at saving the rhino. The National Press Club’s decision to declare the rhino as “Newsmaker of the Year” in 2012 was met with consternation and indignation by many. Trevor Noah recently commented on Twitter that “Those red Rhino horns on cars are so cute. Remember when we used to do that for human beings?” I could go on an animal-loving rant about the sad state of humanity – of a society filled with war, hatred and genocide which is bleeding into the animal kingdom – and that not only is the human race undeserving of help, but that we are beyond hope. But I won’t…because I do not agree.
The fight to save the rhino stands for something far greater than just saving an animal. Pardon the drama, but I will readily admit that I boil with rage and am brought to the verge of tears when I read about rhino deaths and see gory pictures splattered everywhere. The cold truth is that although the loss of human life is sad, at seven billion people on the plant, our daily loss does not edge us towards the brink of extinction; but, as Douglas Adams said so astutely “we are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.”
It is humans who kill humans and humans who put themselves in situations that will get them killed. I do not condone the jubilation that follows the deaths of poachers, but I do agree with harsh punishment. I agree because, from the animal’s point of view, these are people willing and capable of displaying cruel brutality towards them; and I agree because, from the human’s point of view, these are dangerous people whose crimes in terms of the illegal wildlife trade spill into our world through the connection with a plethora of other crimes, including money laundering, drug possession, destruction of property, assault, fraud, corruption, racketeering, theft, bribery and possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
The fight to save the rhino is important in the literal sense of saving an innocent and magnificent creature which is part of our country, our heritage and our planet. Laterally, however, it is about having something in this world to unify us, because so little else does. By having something to fight for, we find a purpose and a means to work together to create a society and a world which does not engender and encourage desperation or greed. Dr. Louis Camuti, a renowned American veterinarian, summed it up quite aptly when he said that the “love of animals is a universal impulse, a common ground on which all of us may meet. By loving and understanding animals, perhaps we shall come to understand each other.”
Originally published on Inverdoorn Game Reserve.