By William Saunderson-Meyer
Developing nations don’t hold much truck with wildlife conservation for sentimental or scientific reasons. In places where human existence itself can be nasty, brutal and short, animals are butchered without compunction and often with thoughtless cruelty.
They are clubbed, shot, stabbed, fished, or slaughtered with zero regard to the long term effects on species survival. Unless, of course, their continued existence holds promise to humans of an eventual monetary bonanza.
Given then what nations do to their own animals, how much easier when the beastly extermination takes place in far-away foreign lands? Out of sight and out of mind of the squeamish, but never out of pocket for those who trade in exotic animal parts.
The Asian nations appear to have insatiable appetites. If it moves, eat it. Or if you can’t eat it — tiger bone, rhino horn, elephant tusks — turn it into a potion imagined to cure any ailment, from headaches to cancer.
Hence the particularly dire plight of South Africa’s rhino. After being rescued from the brink of extinction in the 1970s, largely through the determination of a single man, Dr Ian Player, they are once more critically endangered.
The Chinese believe, falsely, that powdered rhino horn is an aphrodisiac. The Vietnamese believe, falsely, it to be a hangover preventative. Such banality as the cause of such barbarism.
At $55 000 a kilogram, rhino horn has, according to an Associated Press report, become the ‘must-have’ luxury item of the Asian noveau riche. As a direct consequence, at least 448 rhinos were poached in SA in 2011 and another 150 in the first quarter of this year. More....