In 1900, there were over 500,000 rhino in Africa. Today, only 5% are left.
"How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished." Jeremiah 12:4
Last Stand in South Africa
As South Africa is home to most of the world's surviving rhino population, this war against organised crime is mostly being fought in our game reserves. Of the 20,405 white rhino in the world, over 18,780 are in South Africa. 12,000 of those are in the Kruger National Park.
Kruger in the Frontline
In 2012, Kruger National Park lost 425 of its rhino to poachers. As Kruger National Park has a 300km open border with Mozambique, it is particularly vulnerable to poachers. When the fence was taken down, many conservationists warned that this would not increase the grazing area of the animals in the Kruger National Park, as much as enlarge the killing fields of the poachers who were, and are, endemic to Mozambique.
In 2012, 668 rhino were killed for their horn in South Africa. Already, almost 400 have been killed in 2013, so far. Rhino poaching has increased over 400% in the last 10 years.
I Will Be Your Voice
On Saturday, 8 June, Cape Town based singer, songwriter, author, and motivational speaker, Rozanne Visagie, gathered concerned citizens under the: I Will Be Your Voice campaign.
Danger of Desensitisation
Dr. Will Fowlds, Wildlife Vetenarian, Animal Planet personality and Trustee of the Chipembere Rhino Foundation, warned of the danger of de-sensitisation to the disastrous destruction of this iconic creature, who is in danger of extinction. "We need to tell the world what these animals are going through!"
A Challenge to Compassion
Dr. Fowlds challenged all to have compassion for God's creatures. We need to mobilise the corporate world, rotary clubs, celebrities, journalists, pastors and politicians to stand up and speak out against the destruction of God's creatures. He warned that the battle will not be won on the frontline, where game rangers are involved in a life and death struggle against extremely well-equipped, sophisticated, organised crime syndicates, using helicopters, night sights, automatic weapons, ruthlessly targeting rhinos and those who seek to protect them. "This battle will be won on the social media and in schools…" He spoke of the need to change attitudes about conservation. This is as much about education as legislation.
The Asian Market
One of the key battlefields in this war to protect the rhinos from extinction is Asia. The drastic surge in rhino poaching is being driven by an insane demand in Asia for rhino horn. In Vietnam and China, people are willing to pay thousands of dollars for just a sliver of rhino horn. It is considered a miracle drug and an aphrodisiac. Although there is no scientific evidence to support this bizarre belief, rhino horn can fetch tens-of-thousands of dollars per kilo on the black market.
Rhino poaching is an over R150 Billion industry annually. Rhino poaching is now listed as the third most lucrative criminal trade in the world - behind drugs and human trafficking.
Individuals Making a Difference
Dr. Fowlds shared some encouraging testimonies of small, but significant, victories in this battle. A rhino called Thandi survived being shot by poachers and having her horn hacked off. Thandi is fully rehabilitated and back in the wild again. Julia, a young 12-year-old girl in Hong Kong, has raised over R90,000 for the Chipembere Rhino Foundation.
The China Connection
He showed video clips of key celebrities in Asia, including a Chinese Olympic athlete, who carried the national flag at the Olympics, who has become a prominent voice against rhino poaching in China. "When the buying stops. The killing will stop." Dr. Fowlds concluded: "We need to tell the world what these animals are going through! We all have the opportunity to make a difference!"
"A good man is kind to his animals, but the wicked are cruel to theirs." Proverbs 12:10
The Failure of the Criminal Justice System
During the evening, specialists that I spoke to expressed their frustration with the failure of the criminal justice system to effectively prosecute the violent and ruthless criminals involved in this industry of poaching rhino horn. On numerous occasions, the prosecutors have failed to do their duty. On other occasions, judges have let culprits off lightly.
A Brutal War
Several of those involved in the protection of rhinos mentioned how it is a brutal and ruthless war. The poachers are extremely well armed and tend to shoot game rangers on sight. Everyone agreed that it is essential that a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach be developed to deal with this threat. This includes legislation, education, law enforcement, the prosecutors and the judges, journalists, filmmakers, teachers, people from all walks of life.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless." Proverbs 31:8
In the light of the Creation Mandate, we must recognise that the welfare and protection of animals is an essential part of our Christian responsibility. Let us be thankful to God for His magnificent creation, for His creatures, including the rhinos. Let us pray for the game rangers and law enforcement personnel, the conservationists and activists who are speaking up and mobilising public opinion against rhino poaching. Let us pray for more sponsors and partners, journalists and politicians who will stand up and speak out, protect and preserve our wildlife heritage.
"For all of us must appear before Christ, to be judged by Him. Each one will receive what he deserves, according to everything he has done, good, or bad, in his bodily life." 2 Corinthians 5:10
We Will Give an Account
All animals belong to God (Psalm 24:1). We are answerable to God for how we treat His Creation.
You Can Make a Difference
Invite conservation speakers to your school, congregation, or college. Visit www.thebibleandanimals.org website: view the Rhinos, Poaching and Conservation PowerPoint, Marvels of Creation and Science and Will Animals Be in Heaven? PowerPoints on Slideshare. These presentations are also available as audio CDs. Support the Chipembere Rhino Foundation and other initiatives caring for God's Creation.
"Who will rise up for Me against the wicked? Who will make a stand for Me against the workers of iniquity?" Psalm 94:16
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa