Sukalpa Dhar: We often use the common idiom ‘have a hide like a rhinoceros’ which means have the ability to cope with criticism or provocation without being offended. But this idiom is always used to reprimand someone.
At the beginning of the 20th century 500,000 rhinos roamed in Asia and Africa. By the passing of time their population got declined to a great extent. Now they are in a verge of extinction. There are various species of Rhino. They are (i) Black rhino, (ii) Javan rhino (iii) Sumatran rhino (iv) Greater One – Horned rhino. Rhinos are vegetarian by nature. The staple food of the rhino is grass but it also consumes leaves, branches, fruits and aquatic plants.
One horned rhinos were once widespread across the entire northern and north eastern part of India. All human activities are linked with economy, demand, supply and entertainment. This is the primary reason that the rhino population plummeted as they were hunted for their horns and skin. The horns are used as a curving material. It has medicinal values too.
In ancient Greece, rhino horns were believed to have the ability to purify water. In the 5th century B.C. Persians believed that rhino horn vessels could be used to detect poisonous liquids which would bubble up when poured into such vessels. In the 7th century artisans in China used rhino horns for ornamentation.
For hundreds of years, it was customary for the Chinese nobles to mark the emperor’s birthday with the gift of a carved rhino horn ‘libation cup’. In Yemen, rhino horn was long used for making the handles of specially curved daggers. These daggers were presented to adolescent boys as a sign of manhood and devotion to Islam.
In the late 19th and the early 20th century at Europe, the ornamental application of the rhino horn was a mark of high society. Various items were curved out of rhino horns such as walking sticks, door handles, gun grips etc. Medical practitioners in India, China, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia use it extensively to make various kinds of medicines which are used to treat different illnesses and abnormalities in the body. In traditional Chinese medical treatment grounded rhino horns were prescribed for reducing fever and ameliorating rheumatism and gout.
Rhino horns are also used to cure snake bite, boils, food poisoning, headaches, high blood pressure etc. Medicinal use continues to create an ever increasing demand for the rhino horns and subsequently creating a constant life threat for the one horn rhinos in the world. Rhino horns are also bought for the purpose of being gifted to others.
Since 1977, the international trade of rhino horns has been banned under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna). Day by day the population of rhinos are plunging. According to the latest figures reported by South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) last year 394 rhinos were poached in South Africa.
Cathy Dean, CEO of Save the Rhino International, also said “Every 22 hours, a rhino was poached in South Africa during 2020. This is a welcome and much-needed decline since the peak of the poaching crisis, but we’re in an extremely worrying situation. Rhino populations have plummeted. They’ve had no time to recover from ruthless poaching throughout the last decade. As we step into the unknown of 2021, with huge financial strains facing South Africa’s reserves and parks, we’ve got to do everything possible to make sure that rangers have the skills, tools and motivation to keep going. We cannot afford to ease up.”
On 21st April, 2021 India Today had come up with the news that poachers had killed a one-horned rhino and chopped off it’s horn in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park. The forest officials of the Kaziranga National Park had detected a rhino carcass near Xilekhunda beel of Hanuman forest camp under Kohara range of the park. It was the first poaching incident in the world heritage site this year.
On 4th September, 2018 a book titled ‘Mandalay’ got released at the Gauhati University. It was written by the Guwahati based senior journalist Mr. Mrinal Talukdar. ‘Mandalay’ was released by the then vice chancellor of Gauhati University, Mr. Mridul Hazarika during an open house discussion held at Gauhati University.
‘Mandalay’ is the first ever detailed research on the trail of rhino horns of Assam in South East Asia, with the support of Centre for South East Asian Studies, Gauhati University (GU).
Mr. Mrinal Talukdar, senior journalist, while discussing about his book, said, “Poaching in Kaziranga National Park can be curbed and contained but cannot be finished as the rising demands in China had continued to motivate the poachers. The poaching syndicate is quite complex and controlled from Myanmar. It is operated through two separate networks – one is Manipur network and another one is the Nagaland network.” “The Manipur network runs through extremist groups, using sophisticated weapons like AK-47, while the Nagaland network operates through several head of the poaching ring.” Mrinal Talukdar further added, “These two networks are finally controlled from across the border between Kalay-Mandalay by a shadowy figure called Lampu, whose actual name, location, photographs are not available with any investigating agency.” Mrinal Talukder also mentioned in the book that the officer-in-charge of Jakhalabandha police station and a forest official of Northern Range who, despite tremendous pressure, are doing a great job by successfully infiltrating into the poachers’ network. He also mentioned that the horn goes out of the country via Dimapur – Imphal-Churachandupur Kale (Myanmar) – Mandalay – Mongla (Myanmar – China border) – Kunming route.
Currently the WWF India’s Ambassador for Hope and Harmony is eminent music composer Mr. Shantanu Moitra. He is doing a lot of work for the betterment of our environment. On 27th March, 2021 at 8:20 pm the WWF India’s Earth Hour event – Speak Up For Nature with Shantanu Moitra was streamed live on the YouTube channel of WWF-India. It was a 70 minutes digital event. Eminent artists Dia Mirza, Shreya Ghoshal, Papon (Angaraag Mahanta), Kaushiki Chakraborty, Swanand Kirkire, Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh and many others also joined him in the session. Ms. Kaushiki Chakraborty dedicated a beautiful thungri song, which she had just composed, to Mother Earth and to the lovely session of WWF-India ‘Speak Up for Nature with Shantanu Moitra’. Thungri is a style of Indian classical music. She sang “Bundana Barasana Lagi, Lagire, Bundana Barasana Lagi, Sawara Megha Ghir Aaye Aaj, Sawara Megha Ghir Aaye Aaj, Bundana Barasana Lagi, Lagire, Bundana Barasana Lagi, Moor Nachata Oor Dadura Bole, Moor Nachata Oor Dadura Bole, Dharti Dekh Muskanelagi, Aaj Dharti Dekh Muskanelagi, Bundana Barasana Lagi.”
Poaching is related to the mythical notion of it’s medicinal value and also a false pride of possession because of it’s rarity. It is therefore necessary to embark on a sustained campaign by some international authority in the countries and areas where they are being marketed. There is no scientific evidence of it’s medicinal value and no allopathic, ayurvedic or homeopathic system of medicine uses these ingredients. The false pride of possession is also a misplaced notion of vanity. Such superstitions need to be removed from the minds of the people.
One horned rhino is the state animal of Assam. The Assam state transport corporation (ASTC) has used a picture of a running one-horned rhino as it’s logo. Assam Oil has also uses a running one-horned rhino as it’s symbol but it is red in colour.
We have to hold each other’s hands together and remain connected to each other if we really want to save and protect these one horn rhinos. We have to stop poaching. We shouldn’t have an ear drum like a rhino’s skin. Every year on 22nd September we celebrate World Rhino Day. This year is the 10th anniversary of it’s observance and needs a renewed vow to save the species from extinction. We have to create suitable and safe environment for the rhinos to multiply and flourish in this beautiful world called earth.
Photo | Dino Animals