My name is Musawenkosi (God's Blessing). I'm a few weeks old rhino calf residing somewhere in the planes and plateaus of the African savanna. In less than a minute after my very pleasant and happy landing on the African bush, my parents told me I must quickly prepare myself to run a gallant race in order to survive. They said it was once a paradise for rhinos here, but that can't be the said anymore, as we must always be on the run, trying relentlessly to evade the poacher’s axe and deadly bullets. My mother further said, gone are those days when we only had lions as our likely natural predators, particularly for us the young. But due to our hierarchy in the African savanna, we could easily survive most lions attempted ambush, using our horns and hefty bodies to shield them and other natural threats away.
I just want to know why should it hurt to be a rhino? We get butchered daily for our horns, of which scientifically has the same composition as human nails – so they say. If it is so, billions of humans in the world are cutting off their nails daily, why can't those nails be collected and put together to fulfil the same perceived role as our horns. I'm only asking?
Our parents are trying tirelessly to reproduce in order to balance the rate of our killing but it's daunting. Of late, we get butchered far more than our birth rate. Clearly this is a war aimed at driving our numbers to extinction. We also have a right to life. It shouldn't hurt to be a rhino, still I maintain.
Some humans talk about legalizing the trade of our horn so that it can be harvested from us to save our lives. Well that's an ongoing debate amongst the powers may be. But nevertheless, our horn is our pride, its our identity, its who we are and most of all, its our weapon to defend ourselves against our natural enemies and threats within our ecosystem. It shouldn't hurt to be a rhino, I strongly maintain.
I wonder how it would be if tables were turned around - for every successful prosecution, poacher's hands be butchered just like our horns. We get killed execution style daily, how would it be if the shoot to kill approach were to be applied against poachers? I'm only asking. As it appears - the poacher’s life matters, whereas our lives don't matter, particularly to poachers. Maybe that's why it hurts to be a rhino.
We were created to beautify the African savanna and we thought we are doing it so well, but now we find ourselves in the crossfire, having to dodge hails of bullets every minute of our existence, driven by greed and heartless acts from humans.
Right now as little as I am, my future is blur, because my life is no longer depended on the protection of my parents and my natural surroundings, but in the hands of the poachers as they decide who lives to see another day and who dies to satisfy their greed. At any given moment, I may find myself being an orphan due to poaching or my tiny body lying lifelessly in the pool of blood next to my mom’s brutally butchered body. Maybe that's why it hurts to be a rhino.
We might soon disappear from the radar and from the face of the earth. I hope one day, there will some realization that we also have a soul and the right to life before its too late. I also hope that the river of the rhino tears we cry will one day be stopped from flowing.
But at the same time, I would like to express our sincere thanks and gratitude to the rangers and all collective units that are so committed in protecting our lives while putting theirs at risk. As rhinos, we know that our human protectors die when their meat meets the poacher’s lethal bullet. A very big thank you to businesses, volunteers and charity organizations that are donating funds, resources and their time in the spirit of protecting and preserving our precious lives. We are forever grateful and indebted to you. Thank you for your efforts, contributions and understanding that it shouldn’t hurt to be a rhino. Not forgetting all the heroes who lost their precious lives in the hands of the poachers while trying to protect us and our future. We don’t know them, but they died for us - we owe them a great deal. May their souls rest in eternal peace and may their loved ones find comfort and strength to pick up the pieces and carry on.
Mahatma Gandhi once said - "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated".
© Thokozani Phakathi