Ceratotherium simum, the white rhinoceros, weighing over 2,000 kilogrammes (2 tonnes) and standing as tall as 1.8 metres is the second largest land mammal in the world after the elephant.
By Prestige Hove
Only five out of over 30 species of rhino are left endangered. Stern conservation programmes have seen the white rhino population recovering from the verge of extinction in the early 1900s to between 19,666 and 21,085, with the vast majority living in South Africa.
Two genetically different subspecies of the white rhino exist, the northern and southern white rhino, with only two rhinos of the northern white rhino subspecies left, both of which are female living under 24\7-armed guard in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. This sorry state has been attributed to rampant poaching for the rhino horn. The majority (98.8%) of the southern white rhino occur in just four countries; South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
From this background, it is thus disconsolate to hear that the Zimbabwean government has ‘donated’ 10 white rhinos to the DRC.
When you see the lightness in which the ZBC news reporter seemed to take the issue and the way in which they tried in vain to justify this environmental injustice, you may think we have millions of white rhinos, whereas it is just less than 50. Was this just a ‘donation?’ If so, when did Zanu PF ever become so charitable? Only a psychologically deranged father can parrot to the world about how he donates money to beerhall friends when his family is starving at home and expects the world to cap him Mr Charity.
It is very difficult to believe that the donation was ‘to re-establish a population driven to extinction by poachers a decade ago’ as the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority would want us to swallow. There is no price in guessing some filthy mega deals are happening behind the scenes. Maybe these are the fruits of the Open for Business mantra? What business is open in parting with 20% of not only limited and rare, but s strictly protected resource? A Zanu PF which prides itself of being open for business should be helping maintain the ecological balance to boost our tourist attraction capacity as well as revenues arising thereof.
It should also be noted that wildlife protection has always been thorny in Congo as a result of lawlessness and militia violence still persisting 15 years after the end of the civil war. Poachers in the DRC have targeted mountain gorillas, one of the world’s most endangered species found only on a spine of volcanic mountains straddling Congo, Uganda and Rwanda to near extinction. How sure are we then that we are not driving the innocent precious animals into the same fate.
Most worrying in all this is the near to silence by the media over this gross violation of our environmental rights and the future. Some hypocrites in the name of journalists were shouting on top of their voices about Grace Mugabe selling elephants to China, but are now back in shells like nothing ever happened. Have we accepted this as the new normal of the new dispensation? Is it not enough that our gallant sons in camouflages were donated and perished in the DRC?
Should our precious rare animals suffer the same fate too at the hands of the DRC? The media should investigate animal exploitation and harm in its many forms, even legally sanctioned practices that are standard and routine and be inclusive of both welfare and rights perspectives. Journalism should be a tool of holding the powerful accountable without fear or favour. Our news outlets must chase stories of our rhino and unpack what’s happening behind the corridors.
As written by Jeremy Bentham: “The question is not; Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but; Can they suffer?” There is need for a momentous revolution in thinking regarding animal welfare. Animals have interests and pain similar to us and should be given equal consideration. When God granted human dominion over animals, it was no passport to do to animals as we will, but rather a conferment of responsible stewardship.
Animals thus exist on their own merit and are not merely a commodity for human use. Czech-born French writer Milan Kundera got it right when he said humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy; animals. And in this respect, humankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.
Maybe our leaders are disciples of the Roman jurist Hermogenianus who, in the 3rd or 4th century AD, wrote, “Hominum causa omne jus constitum” (“All law was established for men’s sake!”).
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