It's a bittersweet feeling, watching a rhino in the wild while I'm on safari. I think how fortunate I am to see one, not just because they're a member of the 'Big Five', but because this rhino could very well be slaughtered by poachers that same evening. I wish I was exaggerating by making that statement instead of sharing a sad reality with you.
Tomorrow is World Rhino Day, and while I'd love to talk about all lovely places you can view rhinos in southern Africa (like I did for my post about elephants), it's estimated none of us will see rhinos in the wild within the next five years if poaching rates continue as they are. Two to three rhinos die from poaching per day in Africa. In South Africa alone, over 600 rhinos have been killed this year. We are well on our way to surpass last year's total of 668 before the end of the year.
I've mentioned the poaching crisis here and here as a Cause to Care About before. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to an issue that affects multiple African nations and involves demand from an international black market. The most comprehensive fight, from what I've seen from my experience so far at the African Wildlife Foundation, attacks the problem by providing support on a local level and pressure on an international level (you can read more about what AWF is specifically doing here).
I see key indicators that we are getting closer to the change of tides, when the future will no longer look so bleak for this animal. Local anti-poaching units are receiving the para-military training and equipment they need. Trafficking kingpins are arrested and harsh punishments doled out. International awareness campaigns, like WWF's #iam4rhinos, and PSAs broadcast in Asia explaining horns are not a 'cure all' or a status symbol, are increasing. Now that the Duke of Cambridge has announced his retirement from his military career, I predict we will see him taking the lead in the war against poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking in the next few months.
Bit by bit, we're all doing our part. One day, we'll look back and tell our children how this collective sum of actions from people all over the world saved a species from near extinction. Only then will World Rhino Day transition from a cry for help, to a reason for celebration.