Friends subscribe to National Geographic, and when they’re finished reading them, they pass them along to me. I tend to peruse them on the toilet. Reading about the atrocities committed by humans helps keep me regular.
This morning, it was “blood ivory” and the fact that 25,000 elephants a year are killed by poachers who use an ax to hack off their tusks. It’s said the number of deaths are increasing. One tusk can get you $6000.
A couple weeks ago, I read a story about rhinos who are killed by poachers who want their horns to use in medicine that is said to cure just about everything. For all I know, they’re right; the theory is, for every illness suffered by man, there is a cure somewhere in nature. One rhino horn can fetch as much as $360,000.
A week before that, it was tigers and how endangered they are. A tiger skin can get you upwards of $100,000.
If I was gonna poach, I’d go after the rhino. Three hundred and sixty thousand bucks for a horn! No wonder they are nearly extinct. Imagine what a difference money like that would mean to someone in America.
Now imagine what that would mean to the average person in Africa.
When you are poor and hungry and have nothing, and killing a rhino will assure your survival, why wouldn’t you do it? A human is an animal, too, and he wants to live, and he doesn’t care who gets in his way. Oh, there are only a few thousand rhino left on the planet? I don’t care! My kids need food. Get the hell out of my way while I shoot this sucker.
There are people paid to help safeguard these animals, but there are only so many. They can’t be everywhere at once.
I predict these three species will vanish from the earth (except for those few in zoos) in this century, probably within the next twenty to fifty years. There will be no more ivory to carve. There will be no more rhino horn to make into medicine. There will be no more tiger skins adorning the walls of men with too much money and not enough compassion.
I understand what drives people to kill rhinos. The lure of all that money can be hard to resist, and if the market wasn’t there, the incentive wouldn’t be either. But elephants and tigers?
Yes, the carved ivory is beautiful, but is it worth decimating a species for? Six thousand a tusk isn’t a lot of money. In fact, it isn’t enough. They are magnificent animals. It will be a shame to see them go. Tigers are beautiful creatures. I’d rather see them with their skins on, wouldn’t you?
About thirty years ago, in western Wisconsin, the pheasant was considered a rare bird. They’d been hunted nearly to extinction. But local game farms started breeding and releasing pheasants into the wild. Hunting licenses were issued carefully. Now, you see them everywhere. They are beautiful birds; it’s nice to glimpse them running across the road.
I took this picture last August. I was out on the scooter when I spotted two male pheasants going at it. Previously, I’d tried and tried to get pictures of these elusive birds (they run when they see you), but they were so caught up in their battle for dominance that, though they knew I was there, I was able to get within thirty or forty feet of them. This is still not the definitive picture of a pheasant–I want to get closer still, and a much clearer shot–but it will have to do for now. Click to see full size.
If only it were this easy to save elephants, rhinos, and tigers, eh? But as long as there are people willing to pay a king’s ransom for what they provide, I fear they will soon be gone from the wild forever.