Retired NBA star Yao Ming was in Kenya to film “The End of the Wild” documentary — and to bring international awareness to the plight of African rhinos and elephants, whose numbers are being decimated by demand from China.
I meet Najin and Suni with their keeper Mohammed. I’m even able to feed hay to them and tickle behind their ears. It’s clear these are Mohammad’s babies. He dotes on them and if anything happened to them he would be heartbroken.
These are immense and powerful creatures. As one of them pushes me, I’m reminded of the immense pressure I used to feel when I had to guard Shaquille O’Neal. You knew that pressure while guarding Shaq, and you know it when a rhino leans on you.
Game farmers going to jail
IOL.com reports that two South African game farmers — Ewart Potgieter and Riaan Vermaak — were given hefty prison sentences for their part in scheming to kill rhinos.
Potgieter was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment — six years for conspiracy to hunt rhino and attempting to hunt rhino, 10 years for possession of illegal firearms and two years for possession of illegal ammunition. Vermaak received 10 years and six months — six years for for conspiracy to hunt rhino and attempting to hunt rhino, four years for possession of illegal firearms and six months for possession of illegal ammunition.
The duo was nabbed in an undercover operation led by Warrant Officer Jean-Pierre van Zyl-Roux, of the Durban Organised Crime Unit.
Another South African game farmer, Jacques Els, recently began serving his eight-year sentence for dealing in rhino horn.
More than 300 rhinos have been killed in South Africa since the start of 2012.
Sumatran rhinos confirmed
Although not seen in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem area for 26 years, camera traps have confirmed that seven individual Sumatran rhinos are still surviving. The Leuser International Foundation (LIF) said on their website that the survey team also found footprints, feces, mud wallows, and “twisted branches left by Sumatran rhinos.”
LIF estimates that the ongoing survey may find as many as 25 Sumatran rhinos in the area.
Image: Rhino charging via Shutterstock
Rhishja is the founder of Annamiticus, a nonprofit organization which provides educational information and news about wildlife crime and endangered species. She is the Editor of the blogs Annamiticus, Rhino Horn is Not Medicine, and Project Pangolin, a Producer for the upcoming documentary "The Price", author of the book "Murder, Myths & Medicine", and host of the "Behind the Schemes" podcast. When Rhishja is not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, she enjoys rocking out to live music.