It’s Not Easy Having a Horn: RIP Western Black Rhino

I am guessing that right now your minds are on the death of the great Nelson Mandela.  Or maybe the protests in Ukraine.  Or maybe what you are going to have for supper.  My mind, however, is stuck in early November, when I learned that the western black rhino had been declared officially extinct.*  Nestled among stories about Rob Ford’s unapologetic apologies and thieving senators, the story of the rhino’s demise was marked with no more gravity than the day’s weather.

Slaughtered for its horn, which is prized in traditional Chinese medicine, this species of rhino is simply with us no more.  Ploof!  Gone.  Millions of years of evolution (sorry, creationist followers) screeching to an unceremonious halt.  I can honestly say I was not surprised by the apparent lack of caring about this loss; after all, we have trinkets to purchase for Christmas!  And it’s cold in Saskatoon!  And can the western black rhino lower the cost of my cell phone bundle?  Who has time to care?

But what exactly is the depth and degree of our dissociation from nature if we don’t blink upon hearing that we have decimated an entire species?  Does it seem weird that we know and care more about getting a new flat-screen TV on sale on Black Friday (OMG!) than that while we sleep and play, animals who have dwelled on this planet with us since before recorded history are gone?  And not just mysteriously gone.  They have been pursued, chopped, orphaned, and shot by none other than the “smartest” species on the planet.


Truly, I know that there can be beauty of intention in humans.  I happen to like – even love – many of them.  🙂  People rally around dogs with broken legs, organize donations for families whose homes have burned down, and flock to the streets by the thousand for Batkid.  And good for them; we need to care and have a sense of community.  Where, though, is our collective cry when a species – which poses zero threat to humans, by the way – is decimated by our own?  Why can we muster greater moral outrage over Miley’s twerking than we can over our relentless killing of animals?  Why can’t we gather around the water cooler and talk about positive action for stopping the ivory trade?  Or [insert anything meaningful here]?  Listen, I know that many of you pour your hearts and time into making a difference in the world, and I thank you.  You are exempt from my rantings.  I also understand that my cause is not necessarily your cause, and you might be doing other lovely things for the world and just don’t care a lot about large grey mammals.  You are also exempt.  🙂

But here’s the thing: how much can happen to animals and the environment before we start to care?  How long can we move along in our heated/air-conditioned bubbles (depending on the season) not caring?  I don’t know, but I am pretty sure we should all start caring.  The first reason is practical, since the extinction of the western black rhino for the harvesting of its horn is a chilling sign that people as a rule lack the foresight to plan for the future.  Today we are willing to drive a species off the planet in order to have powder purported to help with fevers.  Tomorrow that same blindness will lead to tooth-and-nail fighting over clean water, fuel, and food for everyone.  The insulation of money and North American wealth will do little when we are scrambling for life-sustaining resources.  There should be a message here.  Regardless of the resource, if it is being consumed (poached) more quickly than it can replenish itself, it will run out.  This is a fact understood by toddlers scrambling for candy from a piñata, yet it seems lost in a world where the economic ethos is one of limitless growth.  Remember our old pal the western black rhino?  The beleaguered creature who, if given a choice, probably should’ve picked not having a horn?  The one that was shown the hard way that when humans cast a voracious eye upon a commodity, it will be exhausted? Image

Reason would suggest this could be a cautionary tale for us.  Even if we haven’t learned from various over-fishing events, the dwindling number of bees, the over-hunting of the buffalo, the over-trapping of the beaver, and the seemingly endless list of endangered species, at least maybe this time we can learn.  NOBODY gets the horn now.  Neither rapacious humans nor its rightful owner.  In ten years, NOBODY will get the ivory.  At some point, NOBODY will have oil.  The fate of the western black rhino could serve to teach us that that if we are greedy and short-sighted, we end up with nothing.

But besides feeling terrified by what humans are capable of doing to animals and the environment, I also care about the extinction of the western black rhino for its own sake.  This creature wandered the plains of Africa from time immemorial: eating a bit, having the odd calf, sometimes getting taken down by a lion or super-hilarious hyenas.  It was just there, doing its own thing, as it should.  Then, enter money, and the western black rhino was slaughtered en masse for human greed.  I lament that the world lost this species’ uniqueness.  I feel heartsick that we cannot or choose not to appreciate the inherent worth of animals.


E. O. Wilson brilliantly captures why humans should care about other animals both for their own sake and for self-preservation: “Humanity is a biological species, living in a biological environment, because like all species, we are exquisitely adapted in everything: from our behavior, to our genetics, to our physiology, to that particular environment in which we live. The earth is our home. Unless we preserve the rest of life, as a sacred duty, we will be endangering ourselves by destroying the home in which we evolved, and on which we completely depend.”

When it comes to the slaughtering of the western black rhino, we have proven not to be smart, or forward-thinking, or kind.  We have stood by as yet another branch of the rich tree of life is pruned, and part of the richness of our life has been lost as a result.  The implications for us are both spiritual and ethical, and I believe that our continued indifference to the plight of animals does not bode well for our own future.Image

*There is no uniform agreement on the time of extinction due to difficulty measuring, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature made this declaration in 2011 or 2013, depending on the source.  I guess it’s hard to be accurate declaring when you are seeing the last of a species.  😦

Want to do something?  Read up!  🙂

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: I canNOT believe I am going to say the following sentence out loud but can you Please Stop the Killing of Rhinos as a way to Save Rhinos?!? | Sunset Daily
  2. purelivingblog
    Dec 18, 2013 @ 00:33:27

    Thanks for making this blog! Please keep posting. I will probably end up repressing some of your articles if you do not mind. You are definately passionate and keep it up. Look up the Royal family and how they own the world wild life organization. Prince Philip developed it. I posted a video on my blog on it. Its crazy the charities that are supposed to help are really promoting slaughtering. The royal family owns most of the safaris and other exotic lands.


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