White Rhino Conservation
A generally peaceful beast, the white rhino has something of a prehistoric, Jurassic Park look to it. Its springy gait belies its tank-like weight - an average of two tons. In fact, this is the second largest animal on land, and like most charismatic mega fauna, is found only in Africa.
At first glance, white rhino conservation seems entirely superfluous - this animal looks quite indestructible. But its population plummeted to no more than a few hundred during the 1960s.
The reason for its decline was its horn, which is made of keratin - compacted hair. Rhinos were poached to obtain the horn, used for centuries as a fever-reducing ingredient and as an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine. In the Middle East it also in demand for prestigious dagger handles.
In South Africa rhino conservation has taken dramatic turns. Great battles have been fought to save the animal - the most famous by Dr Ian Player and a handful of men working to relocate white rhinos from the Umfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (a sanctuary for most of the population) to other parts of the world between 1958 and 1964.
Until then, no one knew how to transport rhinos. Dr Player asked a local doctor how much morphine it would take to drug a large animal like a hippo or rhino, and the medico snapped back irritably: ‘A bucketful man, a bucketful.
White rhino conservation received a tremendous boost in the early 1990s when these behemoths were allowed to be privately owned by South African game farm owners.
White rhino in South Africa today number well over 10 000 and the species, once critically endangered, is now only on the near-threatened list.