Wow! Quite an emotional episode of Safari Vet School this week – I could feel the water table in my own eyes rising slightly whilst watching. The main focus of this week’s adventures were Rhino, and in particular the problems associated with poaching, which is unfortunately on the rise. Rhino horn is a much coveted component of many traditional Chinese remedies and there is an increased demand for such products, and with it a sad upsurge in the demand for Rhino horn. One of the main issues with poaching is that the poachers do not have the skills, knowledge, or regard for the Rhino’s welfare to even attempt to harvest horn humanely and sustainably, either cutting them off in such a way that leaves the animals mutilated and doomed to suffer a long, painful, lingering demise, or to just kill them outright, which is a criminal waste of life.
The show touched upon the story of Will, the head vet at the reserve, who had to suffer putting a Rhino he had seen grow up being destroyed as a result of poaching activity. Quite an upsetting thing for any person, let alone vet, to have to do. It did make me think, however, that every vet is faced with the harsh realities of life’s unfairness in various forms during the course of their daily lives, even in daily, general practice. Whether it be the case of the misguided and uneducated owners unwittingly buying a puppy from a puppy farm, or not engaging in simple routine preventative healthcare, such as lungworm control, with the result being that you, as a vet, have the task of fighting to save that pet, or even cases of deliberate animal cruelty. I still cannot get my head around how anyone can condone or even be involved, directly or otherwise, in animal cruelty acts such as dog fighting or physically abusing an animal. These are the sad examples of unfair animal exploitation that occur here, in our country, and are not, to my mind, too dissimilar to the issues facing the Safari Vet School team this week, albeit with obviously different causes and repercussions. It seems to me, however, that the common underlying issue in all such examples is education – if only people really, truly understood the implications of their actions then I predict that animal cruelty and ‘unfairness’ would be but a sporadic event.
On a more upbeat, less soap-boxy note, it was awesome to see how genuinely thrilled Camilla was with her experiences of microchipping and blood sampling the Rhino. That’s one of the great things about Vet School and veterinary in general: the series of ‘firsts’ that you get to be involved in, from performing your first caesarian and delivering healthy puppies, to your first fracture repair, right the way through to your first Rhino encounter 🙂 Nice one!
To learn more about the issue of Rhino poaching and how to get involved in putting a halt to it, check out the Team Rhino website by clicking here.