Pretty much any kind of animal gets my attention, no matter where or what – but there’s something magical about watching animals in their own environment, and even if it’s only a garden snail I can be completely captivated by it once I’ve been watching for only a minute or two. This may sound like an exaggeration, but I promise you it’s not. Any chance I have I’ll drop everything to go animal watching – and sketching – even though here the wildlife (apart from birds) consists mostly of grey squirrels, and the occasional hedgehog and mouse, or vole – if I’m lucky. Our local museum has a natural history gallery of stuffed specimens that I can study more closely when I get too frustrated trying to draw something that moves too fast and disappears too quickly – including animals that are now rare hereabouts, like the red squirrel. (It’s an interesting fact – when snails are on the move they go faster than you’d think and tend to glide along without pausing, which makes them harder to draw than something that’s faster but which frequently stops and stays in one position)…
It may seem unbelievable but there was a time when elephants and rhinos lived wild in Yorkshire. These were the straight-tusked elephant and the narrow-nosed rhinoceros, both of which are now extinct, but between 123,000 and 70,000 years ago, (during a time called the Ipswichian Interglacial Stage) animals like these and the bison and the hippo were here, because the climate at that time was quite different from today, and because the British Isles were then not Isles at all, but were connected to the mainland of Europe by a land bridge so that all sorts of animals could wander up here if it suited them.
Oh, how I wish I could see a rhinoceros in the wild! When I think about how I feel simply watching grey squirrels, the very thought of being in the presence of an animal like a rhino in its natural home just takes my breath away.
But the truly appalling thing is that it may be a distinct possiblility that in only 20 years, no-one will be able to watch a rhino in its natural environment because rhinos could be extinct in the wild. Gone forever.
Susan Portnoy has been talking about rhinos on her blog The Insatiable Traveller, and how an organisation called Rhinos Without Borders has a project to move 100 rhinos from South Africa which is home to 80% of the world’s rhinos, to Botswana (to read about why this is such a good idea follow the link above).
Susan and over 100 other travel bloggers are joining the drive to accomplish this by raising funds to move one rhino – and anyone can help by supporting and donating to the project #justonerhino.
I know rhinos are not the only endangered species. I know there are many other vital projects of all kinds around the world that need our support. But the rhino’s plight is extremely urgent, and for reasons that are entirely man-made, because of poaching on an escalating scale. Currently, on average 24 rhinos are being slaughtered by poachers every week, and the population is now so small that it can’t breed fast enough to keep numbers sustainable unless we intervene. Anything we can do, even to give just one rhino the chance of a safe home, has to be worthwhile.
Sometimes the problems that face us in the world are so overwhelming that it’s hard to see how we as individuals can make any difference but it really is the small things, one at a time, that count – and can make a change. In this case, for at least one rhino, that would mean everything.