I would like to be honest and say I have observed the discussion, the outrage about the decimation of our rhinos with distant interest. For me, as for many, this has been a largely elitist issue, one that has occupied the minds of the rich and mostly white people of this country. I have regarded the issue as one of those designer trendy topics, engaged in by those with too much time and money on their hands and nothing real to occupy them, you know, a discourse for kicks.
The mobilisation of resources, the awareness campaigns, the gruesome pictures of slaughtered and mutilated rhinos, the deployment of the most credible of our celebrities to spread the awareness – all these efforts have beenmassive and I have found myself wondering why this issue has not resonated with me, as I suspect it should. Perhaps it is the feeling that there are more urgent and pressing issues, more worthy of my attentions. You know, such as the eradication of poverty, education, jobs, race issues that are directly connected to me – and what’s more, these are issues that affect human beings, not animals. While there may be some validity in this kind of reasoning, I feel compelled, urged almost by an irrational force, to further explore and understand my apparent aloofness to the issue of the rhino tragedy. I seem to be compelled by an ever-present sense that wants to interrogate this disposition, a sense that seems not to buy these ‘excuses’ for my apathy in this matter.
I’m told that by the end of 2011, a staggering 445 rhinos had been killed for their horns; even more frightening is the prospect of having this majestic animal completely eradicated and extinct in five to eight years, if current killing trends continue. Conventional reasoning says that someone, somewhere knows who is killing these animals and that the investigation and apprehension of the perpetrators of these crimes should be relatively simple, given the resourcing and general outrage about this scourge. We are aware of the markets for rhino-horn located in eastern countries like Korea and China; we even know the reason for the demand, as absurd as it is, you know, for kicks. We seem to understand the networks and hierarchies of the syndicates operating in our country; why then is this situation continuing and in fact worsening? Perhaps some of my scepticism stems from the realisation that multimillion-rand industries have been spawned by the advent of the ‘rhino killings’, that there is money to be made out of the ‘outcry’. Media houses, attorneys, celebrities, pundits and even dying organisations such as Proudly South Africa, clamouring for survival and relevance, can perhaps be resuscitated by the breath of rhino death.
Perhaps my disinterest is further fuelled by what seems to be glaring contradictions and inconsistencies in the general discussion about the indiscriminate killing of our animals, not just rhinos. We have a curious set-up in this country where people with very big guns and even bigger bank balances, may shoot defenceless animals, well, you know, for kicks – and by the way, the laws of our country permit this, you see. I remember not too long ago when the laws of this country permitted someone to be brutally discriminated against simply because of the colour of their skin. So much for our laws, hey? We are told that this is sanctioned by learned conservationists, who understand the requirements of a balanced eco-system and that it is ok to take the animal out, in a humane way, of course. But, a poor man trying to feed his family by hunting a buck or fishing is made guilty of all sorts of ‘anti-poaching’ and ‘quota’ rules and regulations and may even pay with his life for his offence. Incidentally, I was intrigued to learn, about a month ago, that a KwaZulu-Natal nature conservation park agreed to the killing of a rhino for a price-tag of over R900,000 by a wealthy foreigner, you know, for kicks. Really? The very rhinos we are screaming at the top of our voices to preserve and protect? I guess if the price is right, it is permissible to change the rules. What I want to understand, however, is how different are the rhino poaching syndicates, who get R400,000 per horn in the eastern markets, to the KZN parks board who permits the killing of a rhino for just under a million rand, with all the protection of the law of cause, you know, for kicks. Is the principle not the same? In fact at a purely practical level, the poacher may seem to be more justifiable because whatever pittance he happens to eek out from his heinous crime, will go to the feeding of his family – and no trophies of dead animals’ heads will be hoisted on his wall, you know, for kicks.
Indeed, the reasons for my apathy, and others like me, in this matter are many and perhaps some of them are valid. Some may simply be a demonstration of a chip on my proverbial shoulder for, you know, my kicks. The abiding fact however is that our rhinos are being killed by us, human beings, you know, for kicks. Yes, I know you and I are not lurking in the wild trying to mutilate a rhino or two. But as long as these wonders of nature continue to die in the service of human lusts – you know, our kicks – we remain complicit in their indiscriminate murder. The illusion of separateness, the notion that I am not affected because the issue has nothing to do with me directly is an illusion, a dangerous one at that. History will judge us harshly as a people but also as individuals, if we do not rise up and out of our comfort zones to recognise the interconnectedness of all life. We must make our voices heard in defence of these animals, now. Their welfare is inextricably linked to ours and to ignore this call is to mutilate our very humanness. It is this truth, which ignores and casts aside my excuses, you know, my kicks. It haunts my conscience and cries out for acknowledgement. Perhaps we all heed this call? DM
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Aubrey Masango was born in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria. Educated at St Johns College in Johannesburg and later went to the University of Pretoria to study to be a teacher. He was bored. He decided to get out of the corporate rat-race in 2009 because he did not like the person he was becoming in the BEE scene, seeing it as pretentious and unsustainable. These days, Aubrey is a talk show host on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape talk. His regular show “Talk with Aubrey” is on a Sunday evening at 23h00 to Monday morning at 01h00.
"We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson