The Rhino and the Flip Flops


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Spring has sprung here in Sunny South Africa and we’ve waved goodbye to the Springboks as they jet off to New Zealand, otherwise known as the home of the sheep. Sheep actually outnumber people there. But this isn’t about being mean to the poor old Kiwis. 
Back in the day, the first day of spring meant we had to come up with some stupid hat to wear at school. Only to parade about feeling like a right ninny with Grandma’s pansies precariously perched on your noggin. Thank God that’s over. Then again, at least I knew what was expected of me.
Last night I received an urgent SMS, email and Facebook message from my sister-in-law asking me to wear black in honour of saving the rhino. Hot on the heels of that came the rebranding of Spring day as barefoot no more day™ – an equally noble cause. This one was about buying flip flops from www.barefootnomore.com, the proceeds of which go to making special polish-free school shoes for underprivileged children.
 
So, I went to work in black flip flops and a rugby jersey. I thought that covered all my bases rather nicely. (Truthfully, I didn’t. I forgot about the whole lot of them, but I had planned to, so the thought counts).

There are a lot of do-gooder sites out there not least among which is Lead SA and the International Marketing Council of South Africa’s Play your Part. People like me need simple enough instructions to follow. It’s not that we don’t care, we do, but we also have to deal with corporate dress codes and all this mixing and matching takes its toll.
Now, while I am usually the cynical voice too busy taking the piss to do anything serious, the plight of our rhinos is in fact not a laughing matter. Its deadly serious. These incredible animals are on the verge of extinction due to some people’s erectile dysfunction. Viagra is much more effective than ground up rhino horn.  
54 might not seem like much in a year, but bear in mind that in all of Africa there are fewer than 2500 of them left. The Rhino Conservation website has quite a lot on the subject, but I’ve poached a bit to share here.
After successfully wiping out three species of Asian rhino, citizens of China and other East-Asian countries turned to Africa. You don’t actually have to kill a rhino to get its horn, but dehorning leaves them totally defenceless. Rhino horn is made from the same stuff as our hair, keratin. Its effect on one’s nether regions is about equal to that of you chewing your nails. AH! Also the site says that it is not actually prescribed for a lagging libido and that is all urban myth. I apologise for my sentiments above, apparently Viagra need not fear it as a competitor.
Despite that, it is used to treat a whole of minor ailments perfectly easily treated by advances in modern medicine. For example fever, rheumatism and gout. Sounds to me like a bit of paracetamol and some Cataflam would get the job done. 
Li Shi Chen, a 16th century pharmacist, in this country the equivalent is the inyanga, used it to sure snakebites (anti-venom anyone?), hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession.” Apparently it was also supposed to detect poison. You can pick up a cure for all of this, except of course the devil possession, over the counter at most pharmacies. Better yet, it is covered by medical aid!

So, why then are our rhinos being targeted? Well, it seems that the Chinese government has marked Traditional Chinese Medicine as a growth industry. The outcome is that these chaps need rhino horn to peddle to their customers. Given that it basically has nothing but a placebo effect, I’d suggest doing what they do best, make some cheap knock-off of someone’s else stuff. It’s not like anyone will notice the “made in China” stamp on the bottom.

There are many ways you can do something to help, and you don’t have to go to work in funereal black either. If you live in South Africa you can buy a bracelet from Exclusive Books. Most importantly, you can spread the word.

Save the Rhino offers a number of ways you can easily do something.

Rhino Force are the brains behind the bracelets, you can also email chris@afrikaforce.org.za to find how you can sell bracelets in your country.   

When South Africa agreed to increased trade links with China, this was NOT what we had in mind. I would have given anything to have been a fly on the wall when the idiots that stole two rhino horns from a British Museum realized they were fake!
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