Sudan Rhino, Emma Carter
Rhinos are one of the world’s most endangered species. And although not native to England, there are tons of ways we can help to prevent them going extinct, often by what we don’t do or buy, more than what we do. Despite the different names of white rhinos and black rhinos, both species are native to Africa and have grey skin. You likely know the main reason rhinos are at risk is due to illegal poaching of their horns (made of keratin, just like our hair and nails).
Experts say the false belief (mostly in Vietnam) that the horn has medical benefits is the issue – one says using it to cure anything is like ‘chewing off your own nails’. One boffin has created a DNA replica of a rhino horn so that a buyer would not know the difference. This deters people from buying rhino horn, as they have no way of knowing which is which. And protein in horn can make diseases like cancer worse.
These beautiful massive heavy animals are actually herbivores with poor eyesight (but they can run like the wind, and could easily kill you). White rhinos are only second to elephants in being the largest mammals on land (blue whales takes the top title). And due to not having the brightest of brains, they like to communicate through dung!
Rhinos are shockingly endangered. Recently the last northern male white rhino died (conservationists are now trying to pair the two females left with surrogate southern white rhinos in a bid to stop the species going completely extinct). There are five species of rhino (white, black, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan). The last two have numbers down to two digits, with poaching, habitat loss and the overuse of palm oil the main risks. Another risk is war (poachers in conflicted areas tend to take more risks to earn thousands of dollars to sell horn). One Irish expert came up with a heart monitor that alerts anti-poaching teams if the rhino starts running to escape – the poacher is then caught as ‘nobody can outrun a helicopter’. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of anti-poachers have lost their their lives, protecting this magnificent species.
Removing horns is not the answer you would think it would be. Firstly, rhinos use their horns to forage for food. And as poachers usually hunt under bush cover, they would not know a rhino had its horn removed, until after it was killed. Recently a rhino in a French zoo was killed for its rhino, showing just what we are up against. And even baby rhinos rescued alongside slaughtered mothers have been killed.
How We Can Help Protect Rhinos
- Never buy dodgy souvenirs. Common items made from rhino horn are buttons, belt buckles, paperweights and hair pins. Get certificates of proof, for traditional oriental medicine.
- Never buy foods with palm oil. Greenpeace says ‘sustainable palm oil’ is a term with no legal clout, just self-policed by industry that won’t pay extra for local rapeseed oil. Full of saturated fat, its use is harming old growth forests (home to rhinos, orangutans and tigers) that are torn down to make cheap plantations for junk food, exported to the west. Just make proper meals from local seasonal ingredients. Also buy palm-oil-free soaps (free from ‘sodium palmate’).
- Buy sustainable wood and paper. If you can’t find recycled, then at least ensure it’s FSC-certified, to protect old-growth forests.
- Live a simple zero-waste, as much as you can. The less we buy and the less we do, the better life is for all creatures, as this helps prevent habitat loss and climate change.
- Support sanctuaries, not zoos. Most children spend 20 seconds viewing each animal (entertainment, not education). Born Free say the best way to help is to help those who care for rescued rhinos in the wild, and fund anti-poaching controls and education. Report concerns of zoo animal to Freedom for Animals & Born Free (also inform police, tour operator and local welfare).
- Blankets for Baby Rhinos welcomes knitters, crocheters and crafters to produce items (sold to raise funds for rhino conservation).
- Prints from wildlife photographer Lara Jackson (and organic cotton totes with art by Jazz Austin) both aid rhino conservation charities.
Urban Rhino Gin is a quality tipple, with profits helping rhino conservation. Avoid tonic water for certain medications, as it contains quinine (check paper inserts).
Remarkable Reading on Rhinos
- Save the Rhinoceroses is a fun book to teach everyone about these beautiful creatures, what the issues are and how to help.
- The Last Two introduces us to Najin and Fatu – the last two northern white rhinos in the world, protected aroudn the clock by a squad of rangers. The daughter and granddaughter of Sudan (the last male northern white rhino who died a couple of years ago), there are hopes to save the spcies from extinction, using assisted reproduction with southern white rhino surrogate mothers. Meet the rangers, conservationists and scientists trying to ensure these two beautiful girls are not the last remaining white rhinos.
- Remembering Rhinos is one of a stunning series of photography manuals, to raise awareness of the plight facing endangered species. Let’s take a moment too to thank Black Mambas, a group of highly-trained unarmed females who patrol patrol 20,000 hectares of part of Greater Kruger National Park, home to the largest wild rhino population (so more at risk from poaching). They are experts at detecting issues, then alert the main armed authorities to help.
Buy an Organic Hoody (save rhinos!)
Helping Rhinos Fashion is the online store of one of the world’s major rhino conservation charities. Working with Teemill, it offers beautiful organic cotton t-shirts and hoodies (for men, women and children plus organic cotton totes), with profits helping to fund their wonderful work.
Not only that, but everything is made with green energy, and sent in zero waste packaging. And when your t-shirt or hoody finally wears out, just send it back (freepost), and it will be remade into something else. And you get store credit for your next item!