On Friday, March 5th, Tana, the nine year old black rhino who had been shot and injured by armed poachers on December 26, 2009, finally gave up her fight for life and died. Tana had been wounded in the shoulder and a second black rhino, Ntoiye, was fatally shot in that same poaching incident on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. This is Lewa’s first ever rhino loss to poachers and is a sad and devastating event for all of us.
Tana fought as hard as she could during the last two months. She gave it her all, and so did our Wildlife & Security Teams who treated her three times with heavy doses of long acting antibiotics, monitored her on a daily basis, and supplemented her feeding so she wouldn’t have to walk long distances to find food. We can only hope that her struggle will help raise awareness to rhino poaching, which as we all know, is on the increase.
She survived for two months against all odds. After carrying out a full post-mortem on the animal we discovered the bullet was lodged between her shoulder blade and her ribs. As a result of the bullet wound, her shoulder was broken. The infection was spreading and Tana would not have survived this injury, no matter what.
This is a painful reminder that threats against rhinos are ever-present, that we need to remain extremely vigilant and continue to invest in rhino conservation. The demand for rhino horns has driven poaching to a 15-year high. Rhinos are not any safer in 2010 than they were 20 years ago. Some reports have attributed this rise in poaching to newspaper reports that a Far Eastern government official claimed it had cured him of cancer early last year, adding to the already booming demand. Traditional Chinese medicine considers rhino horn as one of the three main restoratives; where the horn is shaved or ground into a powder, and then dissolved in boiling water. Given the increasing affluence amongst some people who use rhino horn in this way, it has become more affordable and in some places is also regarded as a status symbol.
On a more positive note, we would like to bring to your attention a new book which Lewa’s Strategic Advisor, Ian Craig believes captures perfectly the current thinking across the globe on conservation and how National Parks alone cannot sustain the life and world that we all value and is so vital to our very existence. The book, written by Caroline Fraser, is entitled Rewilding the World. It compares different international examples of how and why core areas, corridors and predators are so vital to the continued existence of every species. It also illustrates how the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy model has evolved to fit comfortably into this new thinking and how the investment and commitment of the past twenty five years now finds its recognition amongst the 21 rewilding sites chosen by the author from hundreds around the world.