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Nonno Panda TALES 13

Nonno Panda and… the Rhino – One day, wandering along life’s path, I got lost
in a dark jungle, unable to find the right way …


I stumbled across a small herd of rhinos. It was the first time I had ever seen a mixed bunch of them  because normally white rhinos never mingled with black rhinos. About time I thought, because I had never really been able to spot the difference between the two. Morphologically, they look very much the same. Only now that I could see them close-up, was I able to realise the black rhino is smaller than the white and there is a subtle difference in the colour of their skin; otherwise at first glance, it is difficult to tell  them apart.

Anyway, the two groups had nothing against each other, just different personalities. One was more shy and reserved, the other more outgoing. So they did not socialise together as they liked different things.

We animals often do that. We keep to ourselves, because we feel more comfortable in the little world we have created around us. We don’t want others to interfere with our habits. I put it down to a matter of privacy and it should be respected.

But you all know how keen I am on welcoming any changes that bring unity amongst all races. I see it as the positive part of the animal kingdom. It is constantly evolving and that is good.

So there I was, philosophising on the meaning of life but nearly failed to notice that rhinos in the mixed bunch had their
noses wrapped in bandages. How weird, I thought, wondering what had happened. They all looked like they had just come
off a battlefield.

That’s it! They must have had one of their famous horn competitions to prove who the strongest male in the group was. That would explain their head wounds. Gosh! The first multi-racial contest  of its kind. How wonderful! Mind you, from the look of their faces and the pace they were moving at, this bunch had most likely ended up being the losers.

I went up to them to try to cheer them up. “So guys, who won?” I asked, smiling.

“Who won what?” said the big white rhino who was the leader of the group.

“Your competition”, I said.

Ain’t no competition Panda-bro”, said a big black rhino.

“Hold on, why are you all wounded then?” I asked, not fully understanding what was going on.

“We had to have a surgically preventative ‘procedure’”, said the white female.

“To prevent what?” I asked. I had never heard of such a thing before, but I have to admit it was impossible for a panda like me to keep up with all those trends that regularly become all the rage because some actor or TV personality needed to boost their popularity. There were too many of those attention-seekers around these days. I prefer to stay out of the rat race so I can meditate. Then some other young black rhinos said they had done it to protect themselves from evil poachers. My instant reaction was: “What?”,  I could not understand what the poachers had to poach from the rhinos.

Well, I got an answer from the rhinos almost immediately and it was rather shocking. It turned out some humans believe rhino’s horns have some aphrodisiac effect on their manhood and a magic power against cancer.

“Hold on”, I said, quite taken aback by this preposterous information. “How can they turn a piece of horn into an aphrodisiac? Everybody knows it is made of dead tissue. You might as well eat your nails. It is the same substance, homemade and organic” I could not contain my sarcasm. Really, if somebody wants to believe something like that, then they might as well grind up a piece of plastic as there is so much rubbish out there that needs recycling, to need a toy to play with that badly.

“They grind our horns and turn them into a powder which they mix into a potion to suit their own aphrodisiac purposes – whatever those are”, said the white rhino who had the most bandages.

Yuck! That’s disgusting! I can’t think of anything worse than drinking a piece of rhino horn. It’s too awful for words!” 

Really, I thought humans were weird, but this was the weirdest thing I had ever heard. “Are you sure they’re not adding some kind of chemical to it?” I asked, “because in that case they could get the pills and pop them straight down their throats and avoid all these silly hocus-pocus preparations”

“Search me, bro”, said the little black one with a sad face.

“Now I get it. You’ve donated your horns for study to prove it has  nothing to do with this silly stupid human belief?” I asked, trying to find the positive in all this. I know how we animals are against being used for human tests, but maybe this time it was for a good cause.

“We ain’t doing no study, Panda-bro”, carried on the little black one. ‘We’re doing this so we don’t get to be the poachers’ next victim. Them human beasts have gone an’ created a guerrilla like action. They follow us from the sky with helicopters and night-vision scopes. Then they dart us to sleep, drop down from the helicopter using a ladder and our horns, they chop’em off and leave us to bleed to death and I can tell yer the pain’s something else, bro. Seein’ as this is the only thing they want from us, to stay alive we been told by humans that dig us to get rid of our horns, that way we ain’t targets no more” Hence the preventive measure. Now I get it!

“You got to think”, interjected the big white one, “that only last year we lost about seven hundred of our friends to poachers. That’s about one out of forty of our general population. 

The horn on a calf weighs about one kilogramme – not all that much. But that doesn’t matter to the poachers. All they leave is a calf with its skull swarming with flies. Any rhino is fair game to them. 

The human authorities scramble to catch up, even try to use drones to track suspected poachers. But so far they haven’t managed to stop this barbaric process. It’s become a full gang-related industry and the fight is more complicated. The big problem is, at the rate it’s going now, more than a thousand of our friends could be killed in the next year. If it increases at its current rate, the  number of rhinos killed is set to exceed births. We cannot reproduce fast enough”

“It’s impossible”, a white female rhino joined in. “I’d like to see you getting pregnant again, you know we have to gestate for seventeen or eighteen months and then we have to breast-feed our calves until they’re two years old. It’s obvious to us this will all lead to a decline in our overall population. But unless we can come up with suitable surrogate mammals willing to help us out – and I can’t see any volunteers – this preventive surgery is the only measure we’ve come up with so far.”

“But couldn’t you find any other solution?” I asked, as it all seemed such a drastic measure to take to counter the poachers’ assaults.

“The only other thing, Panda-bro’, said the big black rhino, “they’ve come up with is to inject cyanide into our horns so eatin’ ‘em just poisons. But we thought ‘No way will the poison just stay on the horn, could infect us all over, know what I mean, bro?  Yeah, they say it’s safe, but I say, better be safe than sorry, ya know? Anyway, when they see us with horns they gonna still kill us, ain’t they? –  How they know them horns got poison, yeah? Sure we can ruin the illegal market,  many more of our bros gonna be killed before those dumb-ass users wise up. We gotta stop it right now, you know what I mean? Cos they saying in two years’ time we gonna be all wiped off the face of the earth.”

“Holy nature! Being forced to mutilate your body as a matter of survival is pretty dramatic, isn’t it?”  I said, although I realised the options were really limited.

“Oh Panda!” added the white female rhino. “Men have been doing these practices to themselves for years – mutilation of the female genitals, circumcisions for boys, piercing, scarring, you name it. They justify it all, in some way or another. So it was just a matter of time before they caught up with us. The point here is that we’re really facing extinction in a short time. If we don’t take action immediately, more of our brother and sisters will be left bleeding to death. So we had no other choice than to remove the very thing the poachers are looking for.”

“There must be something else that can be done – perhaps politically. What about those sympathetic humans that dig you who came up with this idea of preventative surgery? Can’t they do something about it?” I asked. I could still not believe the stupidity of the humans who believed the fiction of the aphrodisiac story.

“Panda- bro, listen. You deal with them all the time, right?” said the black rhino. “So you should know how long it takes for even humans that dig us to make a final decision on a ban or all that sanctioning shit; how long it takes for it to get sorted, organised, carried out, and enforced. And they first gotta  evaluate  all the circumstances or some shit like that. We’ll be no more, kaput, extinct! Who takes the rap? I say it’s society, bro, it’s all messed up, bro. And who’s this society? There’s only humans I’m seeing. You know where I’m coming from, bro?

“The bottom line is we’ll all be gone in a short time”, added the white female. “So with the help of some sympathetic humans, we had to take this drastic matter into our own hands. And what is a little mutilation compared with our species’ survival? Besides, I never liked the funny look that horn gave us. So, as far as I’m concerned, I consider this a cosmetic adjustment to update our  prehistoric look for the twenty-first century. Who knows? Maybe if we like it we’ll work hard on our DNA and we might be able to genetically modify the next generation of rhinos so that we can make the new world of rhinos a poacher-free zone. But we need time for that. And right now, the way things are going, we don’t have a future. So what needs to be done, must be done.” 

“I know. I know”, I said sadly. “I’m very proud of all you for taking this step toward preservation  of your species, but this shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. It’s immoral you have to change the way you look in order to survive” 

“Dear brother’, said the little black one, “look on the bright side. We’ll still be able to enjoy life and that’s the most important thing”

And with that smile on the calf’s face, they all went on to face their new destiny, free of the threat of extinction.

It is unbelievable how animal races come together when they have an extreme situation as a sole common purpose in life. We should be reminded more often of that and not only on Christmas Day or any other festive occasion. It is unfortunate that only in tragic moments does solidarity kick in and all the rest is left aside. Why is this? I do not know. But it seems that greed has no boundaries  throughout the animal kingdom.

This post is also available in: Italian Spanish


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