One of our young supporters, Emma, recently wrote a speech for the Young Speakers competition. The next generation will be critical to continuing to drive education and protection for our wildlife and it is great to see that the message is certainly reaching our youngest generations.
On one side of the South African 10 Rand note there is a pencil drawing of a rhino.
These magnificent animals are some of the oldest on the planet and are direct descendants of dinosaurs. Black rhinos can grow to over 2.7 tonnes and they live off the grasses on the plains of South Africa.
Today there are about 3,600 black rhinos left in the wild but there were over 70,000 just 50 years ago.
Black rhinos only begin to have babies when they are about 6 or 7 and they only have one calf every four to five years so maintaining the population is hard enough.
You wouldn’t think that an animal that is so large would have many predators to worry about, but it turns out that humans are the most dangerous. If you close your eyes and picture a rhino in your mind, I’ll bet that one of the first things that you think of is that enormous horn on the front of their head.
It is a pretty strange looking thing, used mainly to help them forage through shrubbery for the types of plants that they like to eat best. However, what I bet you don’t know is that it is made of keratin. Keratin is what our fingernails and hair is made from – and yes if you trim down a rhino’s horn it will grow back just like our nails do when we cut them. However, there are some cultures that mistakenly believe that rhino horn is magic. They believe that it cures all types of illnesses and that if you drink potions made from rhino horn you will be strong and live a long time.
Because so many people believe that it is magic, (even though it isn’t), it turns out that rhino horn is worth a lot of money – even more than gold. Unthinking humans desperate for money go out in the dead of night – to hunt for a rhino and then kill them for the horn.
Every 6 hours a rhino is killed – over 5,000 since 2010 and now, we are at a point where rhinos will become extinct, we are killing them faster than they can have babies.
Lots of people are trying to help the rhinos and in a small way it is helping. There is even a group that I have learned lots about called the Australian Rhino Project that are going to bring about 80 rhinos here to Australia so that they can lead long happy lives. Their plan is to look after them here and then send them back to Africa once it is safe from poachers. Imagine how happy those rhinos will be to see their homeland again.
I dream about going to Africa one day and seeing animals roaming freely. It makes me sad to think we humans are causing such pain to animals and I am determined we should do what we can to help.
On the other side of the 10 Rand there is a picture of a man named Nelson Mandela. I asked my parents about him and they said that he was an inspirational leader in South Africa, . It turns out that one of the famous things he said was “it always seems impossible until it is done”. I hope that when he said that he was thinking about saving the rhinos.