The White Rhino breaks from dense bush and starts towards the Sontuli Loop for a morning drink. Colour has nothing to do with it. The name “White” is a mis-pronunciation of “Wide”, given to differentiate it from its close cousin the “Black” Rhino. It is easy to spot the difference. The wide mouth an adaptation to eating short grass, while the Black Rhino with its short head, upright stance and narrow mouth confirms it as a leaf browser.
Even in mid winter the temperature in Hluhluwe is above 30 degrees Celsius and the grass is dry and brown and offers little nutrition. Water too is scarce now before the spring rains, but he will endure, evolution has given him all he needs to survive, a tough skin, sensitive hearing and keen sense of smell. For protection, a horn.
Tragic that natures gift is the undoing of the animal.
They killed two rhino not far from here this month. Border posts, fences and rangers don’t stop them anymore, they fly in with painted out helicopters, shoot them from the sky and chainsaw the horn off the bleeding animal and are gone in minutes, leaving it to die slowly. By the time the rangers react all they can do is put it out of its misery. It is big business you see, at $50,000 US a pound, they can afford the high tech.
The joke is there is nothing magical in the horn, it is made of Keratin, the same stuff in your fingernails and hair. Yet still even in this age the myths persist and backyard alchemists ply their trade, and the ignorant seek hope in a little bottle of grey dust.
We will not save the Rhino with game reserves and conservation, the only way we can ensure this endangered animal stays is for every one of us to wake up one morning and say –“I will not buy anything with rhino horn in it”