More than tears needed for our disappearing wildlife

There’s a small collection of stores hidden in the alley behind Madhatters coffee shop in Grahamstown, just off the High Street. One of them is Kisma & Co and it is filled with trinkets and knick knacks made of recycled material.

But before my eyes are drawn to the earrings made of bottle tops, the beaded necklaces and the satchel bags of shweshwe material, I see a forlorn-looking knitted rhino sitting on his haunches near the entrance to the shop. Next to him is a red velvet covered basket with little packets that contain a glass stone strung on a leather thong.

They are called Rhino Tears and are yet another attempt by the South African people to raise awareness of the plight facing rhinos in their country.

It isn’t a new story by any means, and sadly not one that ever makes media headlines. But as the black and white printed piece of paper enclosed inside each Rhino Tear packet explains, it is one that needs to capture the world’s attention if the current trend is to be reversed.

“It’s not even about whether the next generation will see these animals in the wild,” said Tracy, the brown-haired lady behind the counter who is the owner and manager of the shop. “It’s about our children.”

The white rhino, she explains, is already extinct and the black rhino is being forced down the same path.

Kenya has a similar story, but here the spotlight is shared by the rhino and the elephant. Not only is our wildlife being herded into an ever smaller area of land as humans encroach further and further – the most recent example being the construction of the Lang’ata superhighway just outside the Nairobi National Park – but these two docile creatures, more vulnerable because of their highly commercially valued horns (rhinos) and ivory (elephant) are increasingly the target of poachers.

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, in the first half of 2013 (as at June) 137 elephants and 24 rhinos were killed in Kenya. When compared to the statistics for 2012 (384 elephants and 29 rhinos killed) and 2011 (289 elephants and 25 rhinos killed), it is obvious that the attacks are rapidly increasingly.

The satellite enabled tracking collars that KWS recently purchased for elephants in the Amboseli are no doubt a positive step in protecting endangered animal populations. But much more needs to be done if this trend is to be halted and then reversed.

“If every person does a small thing to help, together it will have a big effect,” said Tracy.

Her small contribution is raising awareness with the sale of Rhino Tears.

Mine is writing about it.

What is yours?

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