November 8, 2013 | Posted in:General

The last African western black rhino has been killed by poachers and is now officially extinct.

These magnificent thundering beasts that have roamed the earth in various forms ranging from the Sumatran Rhino to the Woolly Rhino to the Great White Rhino for 15 million years are being systematically killed off based on one thing.

A myth.

Their “horns” (which in fact isn’t a horn at all but hardened keratin or hair that has evolved over millions of years as a protection device) has put this massive animal at risk of total extinction because of one man-made myth-that the “horn” has magical healing qualities that can alleviate everything from depression to impotency. Recently an uptick in killing rhinos comes from demand in Vietnam. Accounts vary as to how and why this is, but the story goes that sometime in the latter half of the past decade a senior politician or other public figure in Vietnam was dying from cancer and given weeks to live – but after ingesting powdered rhino horn, the condition miraculously went into remission and the patient fully recovered. As with any urban myth, attempts to track the story to its source have been unsuccessful. It would have to be a miraculous cure for sure, since the rhino “horn” is basically made up of the same stuff as your fingernails. I never heard of anyone who “bites” their nails being healed of anything.

But the slaughter continues…such is the power of a belief.

Vietnam has one of the highest cancer mortality rates due in large part to the serious lack of environmental regulations on industry that use the waterways as a toxic dump and the leftover defoliant “Agent Orange” from the Vietnam War. Seeking relief from these mad-made disasters humans will do anything to find a cure for the incurable- and all it takes is a sweeping rumor and the poachers go into high gear selling snake oil or in this case rhino hair to the highest bidders-up to $300,000.00 (US) for one single horn.

Some countries where rhinos still roam on game preserves have hired 24/7 security teams to keep the beasts safe but often out-manned and out-gunned these ancient animals still fall prey to poachers. In 2012 668 “protected” rhinos were shot and had their horns hacked off by chainsaws, left to bleed to death on the grasslands. That figure was up by 50% over 2011 statistics and at the rate it’s going that is what the rhino will someday be- nothing more than a statistic.

When I see the images of rhinos with their faces chopped up so someone can “cure” a hangover or cancer, “feel” less depressed or some guy that is impotent can get a woody- I am reminded of a biblical verse…

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Gen 1:26-28

Somewhere along the line man confused the word “dominion” with “extinction”- maybe it was the word “subdue” that caused all this chaos.

Humans have subdued the earth for our own purpose, pushing other species to the brink of extinction and beyond in the name of progress or an erection. An entire species-the Carolina Parrot was wiped out because their feathers looked good on ladies hats. The plains buffalo was nearly eradicated for their hides, thousands and thousands of carcasses left to rot in the sun. The passenger pigeon wiped out because its meat was sold to feed slaves, the last group of 250,000 birds wiped out by hunters that knew it was the final flock and could get a higher price. The list goes on and on and on…millions of sharks killed by the practice of “finning” for soup, manta rays slaughter past the bounds of reproduction for their gills that are dried and offered as an elixir.

Efforts to educate have fallen short-you cannot undue a rumor once it’s been started so perhaps the only way to save some of the remaining animals that are on the brink is to start a new rumor- that cures for cancer, impotency and hangover comes from the consumption of dog shit. If we can just find some politician that has a life threatening illness and…Voila the need for pooper scoopers is a thing of the past…but then again dog is on the menu in Vietnam…man’s best friend in more ways than one.

I no longer hold out hope for the rhino, in time the numbers will drop even more and efforts to protect them while valiant will fall short. Some will be saved from the chainsaw in zoos but even then as the demand increases and supply decreases I will not be surprised to read a headline that reads:

“White Rhino Slaughtered Behind Bars For Horn.”

When the rhinos are gone what beast will bear our burden next?

“Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God.

“Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it-what he does to the web he does to himself…all things are connected.” Chief Seattle.

Farewell great rhino…in 150 years we did what 15 million years could not do.

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