"Only when the last tree has been cut down; only when the last river has been poisoned; only when the last fish has been caught; only then you will find that money cannot be eaten." -- American Indian proverb
Powdered rhino horn. Sliced manta ray gills. One ounce black bear bile. Shaved turtle shell.
What looks like a recipe for a witch's vile brew is in fact a list of ingredients used in various traditional Oriental medicines. Despite all evidence to the contrary, too many people believe that these ingredients will increase virility, boost the immune system, or cure any number of ailments. As a result, many species are at high risk of becoming extinct due to poaching.
The black market for rhino horns alone has caused the population to plummet by 90% over the past 40 years. The animals that remain in the wild are in protected reserves, but even then they aren't safe. Conservationists have been forced to take drastic measures to protect the animals, including:
Posting armed rangers to guard the animals 24 hours a day. Unfortunately determined poachers will not hesitate to bribe or even kill the guards in order to get their booty.
Hiring professional veterinarians to safely remove the rhino's horns to lessen the animal's appeal.
Injecting a toxic solution into the rhino's horn that turns it pink. It doesn't affect the animal, but if the pink horn is ingested it causes severe gastrointestinal distress.
Rhinos aren't the only animals in need of protection. Elephants, narwhals, and walrus are constantly targeted for their tusks despite an international ban on ivory. Sharks are dying by the millions because their fins are chopped off to be used in soups. Many types of whale are being hunted illegally. Tigers are sought for their skins and bones.
What's worse is that the media contributes to the problem. It upsets me greatly to see news stories like "This rare animal was thought to be gone but it has been seen HERE". What that does is paint a huge target on the animal and its habitat. Not only will scientists and animal-watchers descend on the area but poachers will also, endangering the animal even more. If an extremely rare animal is found it should be left in peace, its habitat kept secret if possible, so hopefully it will be able to propagate.
It has been estimated that over 1800 species of plants and animals worldwide are endangered because of human activity. Once they are gone, they are gone forever. More people and governments must take action to quell the senseless slaughter of creatures that have just as much right to exist as we do.
I hope that my grandchildren will be able to see a real rhinoceros or elephant, not just a model of one in a museum or a picture in a book.