Editor’s note – by Vivian Attwood

It is so easy for “causes” to become no more than background noise. Every day we are bombarded with worthy campaigns for everything from reducing gas emissions to halting the destruction of rainforests, banning the fur trade, and recycling our household waste.

Repeat any plea often enough, no matter how worthy its message, and it stops having a major impact. Keep it up for months, or even years, and it makes no impression at all. The government-sponsored Love Life campaign seemed the answer to a prayer when it was first introduced, for example, but finally analysts were forced to conclude that the message had lost its punch. It simply wasn’t effective any longer at changing risky sexual behaviour and curbing the spread of the HIV/Aids pandemic. Outlawing the trade in rhino horn had our full support at first, but how many of us still dig into our pockets – far less our hearts – to support the intensifying war against rhino poaching now?

Until you have seen first-hand the desecration of one of these magnificent creatures, admittedly, it is hard to fully internalise the reason why we have to do everything in our power to stamp out the syndicates that are robbing our future children of their legacy.

I was part of the press contingent that covered the recent visit to the Kruger National Park by US minister of the interior Sally Jewell, who is co-chair of president Barack Obama’s task force on wildlife trafficking. Neither Jewell nor I had ever seen the aftermath of a rhino-poaching episode. But the savage reality hit hard. We followed the armed rangers through drought-crisped vegetation as the scent of the rotting carcass became harder to breathe in each second. And on a slope beside a dry riverbed the plundered remains of the 15-year-old bull lay, with a trail of soft organs spread out in the dirt where scavengers had abandoned them at our approach.

The animal’s eyes were closed, but its end had been anything but peaceful. It could have been a macabre sculpture by Damien Hirst, but the raw wounds where the horns had been hacked out, and the deep slashes made in the bull’s torso by the poachers, were too graphic to be called art by any stretch of the imagination.

I had never realised how majestic a rhino could be – how huge, how perfectly designed for its habitat – until I came close enough to touch one. The flesh was decaying fast in the midday sun, but the memory burnt into my consciousness, never will.

Ban the trade in rhino horn. Add your voices to the campaign. Report suspicious activity in our parks. This is a war we cannot allow anyone but the rhino to win.

Vivian Attwood
Lowvelder Editor

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