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Rhino Poaching, Hunting: Holocaust in South Africa

Despite the sincere well-wishes I have exchanged with friends, family, and acquaintances in these early days of the New Year, I remain unable — and unwilling — to shake an enduring melancholy. As long as soulless humans find spiritual or material reward in the exploitation, torture, and murder of other species, I’ll gladly forfeit any claim on contentment.

As I write this, South Africa’s white rhinoceros faces an escalating holocaust.

In a December 14, 2011, National Geographic News Watch report, contributing editor Leon Marshall wrote, in part: “It has been a bad year for rhinos in South Africa. Many more got killed than in 2010, the 333 toll of which was described with words like ‘shocking’ and ‘outrageous.’ … The tally for 2011 is at least 433. It could end up being higher, for even as the year drew to a close, reports kept coming in of more dead rhinos found with gruesome wounds or just stumps left where their horns had been.”

And those were the rhinos who were illegally murdered.

A recently published Daily Mail report tells us that “South Africa, home to over 90 percent of the rhinos in Africa, grants licenses for legal hunts, with a growing number of the horns then mounted as trophies, shipped to Asia and sold on the black market, according to police and customs officials.”

Some “legal” hunts fall into the category of “population management,” which is, of course, a euphemism for sanctioned slaughters. And sometimes, “population management” is carried out by sadistic, bloodthirsty civilians.

From The Star: “A mystery KZN businessman has paid a whopping R960 000 for the right to hunt a white rhino in the Hluhluwe game reserve. This after park administrators … invited holders of hunting licences to bid to kill the rhino in a tender that was advertised online. The hunt forms part of (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s) population management programme and helps fund conservation efforts.”

The Star report — in which Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokeswoman Waheeda Peters callously confirmed that “the animal sold for R960 150″ — explains that “the male rhino has been pre-selected and will be hunted in a controlled environment in accordance with a ‘strict code of ethics,’ according to officials.”

There are those — I am not among them — who care to differentiate between “legal” and “illegal” rhino hunting.

On October 12, 2011, Edna Molewa, South Africa’s minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, issued a statement in response to the increasing number of South African rhino poaching incidents.

Ms. Molewa’s statement read, in part: “A recently held meeting of the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and the provincial MECs responsible for environment (MINMEC) has recommended that a moratorium on hunting of rhinoceros be considered as a last resort after all options have been explored. It should however be noted that, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs reserves the right to institute a moratorium if there is a clear abuse or absolute collapse in any of the provincial permitting systems.”

At issue, unfortunately, is who gets to kill rhinos and who gets to decide. This, of course, leads us to a conversation about who gets to place a value on which species, and, ultimately, to a discussion about whose authority it is to determine the fate of others’ lives.

Hitler believed — as have psychopaths throughout history — that he held this authority, and his evil persisted until better men did something.

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