South Africa is renowned for its Big Five: these are the elephant, the rhino, the water buffalo, the leopard and the lion. Anyone who visits a game reserve can be forgiven for thinking they had died and gone to heaven if they manage to see the Big Five during their game drives. It is actually quite difficult to see game that is camouflaged by the shade of a tree or the long grass.
There are still many people in the world who confuse a game reserve with a zoo, where it is easy to see the Big Five in their confined enclosures. In Africa game reserves are vast tracts of land where some really beautiful, and truly scary, wild animals roam free.
Over the years we have had some incidents, fortunately isolated, of tourists hopping out of their vehicles to photograph these animals. The result has been disastrous for the tourist. One thing anyone visiting Africa must remember is ‘DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE!’ when viewing game in a game reserve unless you can run faster than a hungry lion or an angry rhinoceros or a rampaging bull elephant. The water buffalo is, arguably, the most dangerous of them all. The leopard only hunts at night, so is unlikely to attack during the day unless startled.
The Big Five are magnificent. You don’t have to take my word for it, just look them up on the internet. However, soon they could be reduced to the Big Four which doesn’t seem very appealing, does it?
Sadly there are some very greedy, and extremely ignorant, people on this planet who believe that it is okay to kill a rhino for its horn, which is worth about one million south African rands on the black market (black meaning illegal and not a race group). As a result the rhino is now under threat of extinction due to the relentless pursuit of wealth by poachers and the end users who, falsely, believe that rhino horn has medicinal value.
In South Africa more than 200 rhino have been butchered for their horns in 2010 alone. This is an astronomical problem if you take into account that there are less than 10000 white rhino in South Africa and less than 2000 black rhino. White rhinos are a protected species, black rhinos are an endangered species. What may have saved the black rhino to some extent is that white rhino horn, which is bigger than black rhino horn, is more valuable on the black market. But when you’re flying in a helicopter, at night, can you see whether the rhino you are about to target is black or white. In fact, can you even see that the rhino has a horn at all in the dark? Many rhinos have been stripped of their horns, their protection against predators, in an effort to stem the poaching. However, when a rhino sans horn is tracked it is killed anyway so that the poachers are never misled into tracking it again! When I say killed I am also being kind as many of these magnificent creatures are left to bleed to death. Such cruelty, on every front. One that survived recently had nine bullets pumped into her. Seems that someone is trying to get 50 Cent (the singer) to adopt her now ‘cos of the similarity of their near death experiences...
The good news is that our government has declared war on poachers and is arresting them fast and furiously at present. However, even if the cases are proven, the maximum sentences are insignificant. A maximum of five years in jail for contributing to eliminating a species from the face of the earth?
Justice sucks, even when it works, doesn’t it? Perhaps the Assets Forfeiture unit can attach all their bank accounts and worldly possessions as a form of restitution? That would give them a bit of pain...
On my poetry blog I have posted a poem I wrote about a rhino if you would like to view it. Since writing the poem I have learned that rhino horn is, apparently, not used as an aphrodisiac but I am not prepared to change the poem as I feel there must have been some basis for those assertions over the years. You know the old adage, “where there’s smoke there’s fire...”
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