by Allison Ledwon
To the Rhinos,
So, we’ve had a bit of a love-grossed by relationship. But pooping in front of someone is a sign of a close relationship right? Just to be clear, you’re the one who pooped in front of a 7-year-old me, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ve made the realization everyone poops. (Who would have thought right?) Anyways, let’s move on.
You are so cool. For some reason, I have always been fascinated by the way you eat. (Seriously, if my human friends have never paid attention to this, check it out.)
Your mouth sort of looks like a mini elephant trunk. It’s weird, but also super cool. Your defining horn always made me think of unicorns, and thus made you seem like that magical creature. When I found out that your horn is made out of keratin, the same substance that makes up my hair and bitten nubs of finger nail, I battled internally for a while. At first, I thought it erased some of the magic, but later I realized that the fact itself made your horn even more interesting. You inhabit grasslands, savannahs and “moist forests” in east Africa, the eastern Himalayas and Borneo and Sumatra according to the World Wildlife Fund. Of the five species of you, Sumatran, White, Black, Javan and Greater One-Horned, you weigh anywhere between 1,320 to almost 8,000 pounds. You’re built like a tank, looking like you’re covered in armor.
But that armor can’t always protect you. Of the five species, three are critically endangered, one is vulnerable and one is near threatened. None of those are great stats. Why you ask? It all has to do with that magical horn of yours. In some Asian cultures, rhino horn is thought to be a major part of traditional medicine with many powers ranging from curing cancer to a hangover fix and everything in between. This large market fuels rhino poaching all over the world. In addition, you face other issues like habitat loss and a loss in genetic diversity, which hurts your ability to repopulate.
It’s not a completely bleak future, however. There are people and organizations who are trying to give you the chance to make a comeback like post-2007 Brittany Spears. Researchers are working with governments to establish new populations and reserves to give you the space and the opportunity to flourish. They are also trying to protect you as best as they are able. They use trackers to see where you are and have set up hotlines for locals to report any poachers they may see. Hopefully, these efforts will pay off.
A Rhino Aficionado