Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Rhino Poaching Update

There has been quite a lot of interest in the rhino poaching situation in the last three weeks. There was a recent NBC TV news report that I have linked to lowder down, and then the report in National Geographic magazine that really caught my eye for two reasons.

You can find the article, by staff writer Peter Gwin, on line here. If you only have access through the web you will miss some of Brent Stirton's remrakable photos. A double spread of a rhino suspended upside down under a helicopter is very striking, especially as the helicopter is out of shot. All you can see is the cable and a wide swatch of Africa. If you do not subscribe to the magazine, take a trip to your local library.

The first nice surprise was to see, on the editorial page, Peter Beard’s iconic 1968 photo of a black rhino coming straight for the camera. There are four men who seem to be standing on something behind the rhino. The man at the extreme left of the picture looks so much like me, with his bald head and face shape, that many folks are convinced it is me.

This is because Peter Beard was kind enough to allow me to use the picture on the front cover of my first book Wrestling with Rhinos: The Adventures of a Glasgow Vet in Kenya. (ECW Press 2002) Peter’s wife, and agent, Nejma has just told me that the man is Ken Randall, a friend of theirs.

The second excellent element was that the article not only told how modern poaching is done, but also gave an excellent update on the HOW of the use of rhino horn in Vietnam, not to mention the extraordinary prices now being paid. Not only is there a remarkable photo by Brent Stirton of a woman pseudo-named “Ms Thien” preparing a dose of “medication” but there is a link to a short video of that process.

I did write to the magazine’s editors. Of course there is not much chance of the letter being published, but I thought I’d share part of it with you.

"I write to congratulate writer Peter Gwin and photographer Brent Stirton on the excellent article about the resurgence of rhino wars in Africa. I have been involved with rhino since the late 1960s and treated my first two cases in Kenya’s Meru National Park during the late Peter Jenkins’s tenure as chief warden.

Although Gwin refers to the 2000-year history of rhino horn in TCM it might be interesting to give your readers some other elements of that history, which goes back quite a way. One of the most interesting comes from a 4th century Chinese pharmacist who wrote: “The horn is a safe guide to the presence of poison; when poisonous medicines of liquid form are stirred with the horn, a white foam will bubble up and no further test is necessary.”  This effervescing property may have saved the lives of many potentates. Among those who are known to have use cups made from rhino horn were England’s Queen Elizabeth I, France’s Louis XIV, and Rudolph II of Germany, who was the Holy Roman Emperor from 1552 to 1612.  All of these people lived in an age when poisoning was a popular way of getting rid of unwanted rivals and enemies.

In was glad to note that Gwin did not perpetuate one urban myth. Many print media have played upon the fact that sex sells papers, and have claimed that rhino horn is used as an aphrodisiac. I quote from the text of The Trouble With Lions: A Glasgow Vet in Africa:

“There are two small tribal groups who believe that horn has this property. In India’s state of Gujarat, men use it by applying some ground powder to the penis just before intercourse, and in the Nakasongola region of Uganda, just south of Murchison Falls National Park, it is believed by some that rhino horn ash helps stimulate sexual desire.  Perhaps the shape of the horn, and the prolonged courtship and copulation (up to an hour has been recorded) engaged in by rhinos, are what leads to the misconception (to coin a pun).  Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker’s Guide fame, with typical throwaway humour, suggested that the aphrodisiac myth might be simply related to the fact that rhino horn is a “big sticky-up hard thing.”

One other note of interest is that Peter Beard allowed me the use of his iconic rhino photo, the one you used alongside your editorial, for the cover of Wrestling With Rhinos. It was fun to see it again in the original."

That disturbing NBC TV report can be found here.

1 comment:

Panasonic Toughbooks said...

Black Hawk USA and PanasonicToughbooks.net is now stepping forward to do something that most cannot stomach. Black Hawk USA is supporting the funding of several Special Ops visits to the areas most affected by the loss of life to the Black Rhino.

Black Hawk USA is also saving for a defense fund to serve necessary as bail money and a large legal defense fund for those who kill Rhino Poachers. There are many military vets who have done exceptional work throughout the world, and operate under Trade Craft. These people are those we are seeking to get the message out, "you will loose your life if you harm or kill Black Rhinos". Black Hawk USA will assist in shipping Night Vision, Clothing, GPS devices, and protective vests along with cash for local intel. All weapons will be purchased at site. Rhino horns now worth more than gold ounce for ounce have transmitters the size of broken pencil led imbedded in them. The time it takes to extract the radio takes hours. The Rhino carcass also has the exact transmitter. When the radio and the transmitter no longer are in contact range The horn sends an EPERB signal. That's when soldiers move in and that's when the altercation begins.

The goal is to have a photo of a dead man responsible for killing the animal while holding the horn he just hacked off from the head of the rhino. Bail will be set but paid by our people, and our people after engaged in each incident will be deported back to the USA.

This is a operation not for the faint at heart. It's a dedicated military operation. One must be willing to take human life to protect that of the most endangered animal on earth. This is a cause greater than any one person If interested please respond to Rhino@PanasonicToughbooks.net