Should Christians Save the Rhinos?

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May 1 is Save the Rhino Day. Rhinoceros have become increasingly endangered in recent decades, with many species now considered “critically endangered.”1 Though some endangerment results from loss of habitat, the rhinos’ biggest threat is poachers.

Recently, a CNN news story featured the death of a poacher who was illegally hunting rhinoceros horn.2 On his hunt, he was trampled by elephants and eaten by lions. It’s a dangerous endeavor, but poachers aren’t in it for the thrill: there’s money in the game. Many Asian countries believe that rhinoceros horns can cure cancer, give them a drug-induced high, and act as a powerful aphrodisiac, putting the limited supply of horn in high demand, regardless of whether these claims are true or not. The horn is made of keratin, the same substance we find in hair, fingernails, and horse hooves, and there is no scientific evidence for any medicinal benefit of the horn.3

The Biblical Response

We ought to care about creation, for God himself made it and cares about it.

God gave man dominion over the earth and the animal kingdom to steward them (Genesis 1:26–28; Psalm 8:6–8). So, is poaching wrong? The short answer is yes—because poaching is illegal, and God desires for us to obey governmental laws (Romans 13:1–10; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 2:13–17). Not only is poaching illegal, but it’s also selfish and unethical. Legal hunters often kill overpopulated deer, wild turkeys, wild boar, and other animals to provide food for their families and skins for usable leather, using as much of the animals as possible. Many sport and trophy hunters donate meat to local villages. When poachers hunt rhinoceros, they often take only the horns and leave the carcasses behind. This is a gross squandering of the precious few of these animals left and a misuse of the creation God has entrusted to us as faithful stewards.

We ought to care about creation, for God himself made it and cares about it. We know that not one sparrow falls without God’s noticing (Matthew 10:29) and that God even looked out for creatures in the Old Testament Law: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him” (Exodus 23:4–5).

A Fascinating Creature

The rhino is a magnificent creature who exhibits our Creator’s handiwork. Here are some fascinating facts to know on Save the Rhino Day:

  • There are five species of rhino: the black rhino and white rhinos (which live in Africa), and the Sumatran, Javan, and Indian rhinos (which live in Asia).
  • They are among the world’s largest land animals, with the white rhino reaching up to six feet in height and over 5,000 pounds in weight!
  • The word rhinoceros literally means “horn nose” in Latin (from the Greek root rhino=nose; keras=horn).
  • When rhinos live in groups, the group is called a crash (as opposed to a herd).
  • Rhinos have a symbiotic relationship with Oxpeckers (tick birds), which eat the parasites off the rhinos’ skin.
  • There are only about 29,000 rhinos left in the wild at the time of this writing. For comparison, there were roughly 500,000 at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Footnotes

  1. “Population Figures: The Most Recent Population Numbers for All Five Rhino Species,” SaveTheRhino.org, https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino-info/population-figures/, access, May 1, 2019.
  2. Livvy Doherty and Eliott C. McLaughlin, “Suspected Rhino Poacher Is Killed by an Elephant and Then Eaten by Lions in South Africa,” CNN, April 8, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/07/africa/south-africa-rhino-poacher-eaten/index.html.
  3. “Rhino Horn Use: Fact vs. Fiction,” PBS.org, August 20, 2010, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/rhinoceros-rhino-horn-use-fact-vs-fiction/1178/.

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