By Sean Thomas
Like most seven-year-olds, my daughter Lucy loves the big African animals. The waddling hippo, the stately giraffe, the gloriously prehistoric rhinoceros. So she was duly excited when I told her I was off to Zambia to see these creatures last month.
And see them I did. All except one.
The reason I didn’t see any rhino in Zambia is because there are no rhinos in Zambia (apart from a few reintroduced specimens kept in a box by German zoologists). There are, literally, none. Not one. Rhino count: zero.
Perhaps the absence of rhinos in Zambia is down to the fact that there weren’t many in the first place? Nope. In the 1970s Zambia had Africa’s third largest rhino population: 12,000. But through the 80s and 90s these were all shot for their precious horns. And this slaughter was and is done in the most disgusting ways: for brutal images see here and here (warning: very graphic images).
In about 2005 the poachers must have butchered the very last rhino in Zambia – like the man who cudgeled the last dodo on Mauritius. One wonders what went through their minds as they did it? Perhaps nothing, as they are villainous morons.
Sound like I’m angry? I am. It takes the enormous absence of a great animal to realise the enormity of its extinction. The annihilation of Zambian rhino was just a staging post: the obliteration of this remarkable animal is accelerating.
Rhinos have been poached to near-oblivion in most countries in the world, from Java to Kenya. Six days ago, one subspecies, the black western rhino, was declared extinct. The last great redoubt of the rhino is South Africa, where 22,000 are thought to survive: 80-90 per cent of the global population. More....