In August, six white rhinoceroses – the first of 80 white and black rhinoceroses targeted by the Australian Rhino Project – are to be sedated and put in crates for a 14-hour flight from South Africa to Australia. The animals, who will undoubtedly be confused and traumatised as a result of being wrenched away from everything familiar to them, will spend months in quarantine before ending up at the Monarto Zoo’s safari park in South Australia.
Rhinoceroses are social animals, but the Rhino Project would sever their bonds with other animals by plucking individuals out of their herds as if they were pawns to be moved around at will. There is no assurance that these uprooted animals will breed, as the plan’s organisers hope – or even that they will survive.
Previous Rhino Deaths in Australia
Four years ago, four white rhinoceroses, including a mother and her calf, died suddenly at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which is where the six rhinoceroses who will be relocated will spend their first two months in quarantine. In 2007, a greater one-horned rhinoceros who came from the US as part of an international breeding programme died at the same zoo after ingesting 70 litres of sand, which blocked her intestinal tract.
Is Captivity the Same as Conservation?
Even if captive-bred rhinoceroses could be reintroduced in Africa, they would likely stand little chance against competition from existing herds, starvation and unfamiliar predators.
Instead of kidnapping these animals and destroying their families, people who care should put time and resources into protecting them in their native habitat. The $6 million that the Rhino Project wants to raise to relocate 80 rhinoceroses could make a real, lasting difference if it were directed where the money is really needed.
Solution One: Tackle Poaching
Poaching in South Africa increased 9,000 per cent from 2007 to 2014, from 13 rhinoceroses to a record 1,215.
Today, an estimated 20,000 white and 5,000 black rhinoceroses remain. Shipping a few of them to Australia will not eradicate poaching. Funds could be better spent on tackling the issue of poaching and on increasing anti-poaching surveillance.
Uprooting individual rhinoceroses and flying them halfway around the globe will not save their species. The solution is to protect them in their natural habitat.
Solution Two: Education
Rhinoceros horns fetch more than $77,000 per kilogram on the black market as purported treatments for various maladies – despite multiple studies showing that they have no medicinal value.
By dispelling any mistaken belief on the part of buyers that horns are obtained legally, an education campaign would reduce demand – as would a campaign pointing out that there is nothing “magical” about rhinoceros horns, which are made primarily of a substance similar to keratin, the protein in hair and fingernails.
Australian Animals Facing Extinction Also Need Our Help
Let’s not forget that there are many other endangered species right here in Australia who could be helped with a fraction of that $6 million. The banded hare, bridled nail-tail wallaby, central rock rat, Shark Bay mouse, Tasmanian forester kangaroo, orange-bellied and turquoise parakeets, short-necked turtle and speartooth shark are among the dozens of species that could be lost forever – and with them, part of what makes Australia so special.
Take Action: How You Can Help
Please, contact the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and voice your concerns about this misguided project. Ask it to reconsider these plans and work with the Australian Rhino Project to protect the natural habitat of rhinoceroses instead.
Please also share this information with your family and friends, and encourage them to take action, too!