The Sad Tale Of Vince, Impy and Gugu

Rhino-Gandhi

Last May I wrote a post about poachers murdering elephants to obtain their tusks for the purpose of selling the ivory to traders.  Though the illegal trade has slowed slightly, elephant poaching remains a serious problem, especially in areas of central and west Africa.  But just today, another, similarly heinous event has come to my attention:  the poaching of rhinoceroses.  Just as the elephants are being killed for their tusks, the rhinos are being killed for their horns, which are then sold to illegal markets mainly in Vietnam and China. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine but more and more commonly now it is used as a status symbol to display someone’s success and wealth. A status symbol.  A living, breathing, majestic creature dies so somebody can have his horn to display as a symbol of wealth.  Think about this one for just a minute, folks.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)it is estimated that 1,100 rhinos were killed in 2016 in South Africa alone, and over 129 have already been killed this year. Today very few rhinos survive outside national parks and reserves. Two species of rhino in Asia—Javan and Sumatran—are Critically Endangered. A subspecies of the Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2011. A small population of the Javan rhino still clings for survival on the Indonesian island of Java.

According to an article in The Washington Post, “experts say, that any living rhino — anywhere in the world — is now at risk of being killed.”  Anywhere in the world, even in zoos and sanctuaries, it would seem.

Rhino-Vince

Vince – R.I.P.

On Tuesday, Vince, a 4-year-old male white rhino, was slaughtered inside his enclosure at the Thoiry Zoological Park west of Paris, France.  Vince was born at a zoo in the Netherlands in 2012, but had resided at Thoiry since March 2015. The murderers broke through a series of metal doors to gain access to the area, then shot Vince three times in the head.  They then used a chainsaw to remove one of his horns, and apparently began working on removing the second horn, but did not finish.  It is unclear whether they were interrupted or the chainsaw broke or ran out of gas, but either way, Vince is dead.  And for what?  So somebody, somewhere, can hang his horn on the wall above their fireplace as a status symbol.  😥

rhino-babies

Thando and Impy napping

But there’s even more.  Last month, at Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in South Africa, two baby rhinos, who had already lost their parents to poachers, were murdered.  Two armed men stormed into the orphanage, held the staff hostage, ripped out the security cameras and shot two 18-month-old white rhinos, Impy and Gugu. Gugu immediately died after being shot, but Impy did not die immediately, yet the poachers continued to remove his horns.  He was later euthanized by zoo staff.  Although the story of Impy and Gugu was reported in several mainstream media outlets, I found this story in the Dodo to be the most informative and touching, even recounting how they came to be at Thula Thula. I hope you will take a minute to read it … it is a story that brings these two rhino-babies to life … it is their legacy.  There is also a Facebook page  written by staff members that tells the story from a personal viewpoint.

On 23 February, it was reported in the SA People News  that two men were arrested for this atrocity.  Apparently, they are known rhino poachers from a “notorious gang” which operates in Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park, also in South Africa. However, it turned out the men were guilty of a different rhino attack nearby on the same night, so they were released from jail.  WHAT?

rhino-stats

Vince, Impy and Gugu are but three of the thousands of rhinos that have been killed since rhino horn became popular within the last decade, but their stories are important for two reasons.  First, reading their stories, putting a name to the victims of these horrid crimes, seeing their pictures, makes it more personal, helps us to realize what a true crime this really is, more than simply reading statistics about poaching.  Second, and most disturbingly, these two stories suggest a new and alarming trend, one where even animals being protected from poachers in the wild, are not safe.  It suggests a certain desperation or else laziness on the part of the evil men who would murder an animal for money. Are these two instances isolated, or are they merely the beginning?  Will other poachers soon decide that it is much easier to murder and de-horn a rhino in a small, protected area than to have to scout hundreds or even thousands of acres in the wild?  I hope I am wrong, but more and more, the human race amazes me, and not necessarily in a positive way.

22 thoughts on “The Sad Tale Of Vince, Impy and Gugu

  1. Now for your third challenge, the keeping of animals in zoos. In your reply to me you say that “for many animals those cages and confined spaces are a refuge of sorts, a place where they can be protected from poachers, hunters, and habitats threatened by environmental ravages.” I’ll partially concede you the third point, that there are times being in cages and confined spaces will protect some animals from environmental ravages, but for animals trapped in zoos inside cities, their environments are filled with the normal pollution of being in the city. They also learn to eat foods thrown to them by both children and adults who think they are being kind, meanwhile that kind of food can choke them, cause bowel blockages, or outright poison them, slowly or quickly. So for me this argument is a non-starter. You also say that cages and confined spaces “for many animals those cages and confined spaces are a refuge of sorts, “a place where they can be protected from poachers, [and] hunters,” which is a direct contradiction of words from the blog, “On Tuesday, Vince, a 4-year-old male white rhino, was slaughtered inside his enclosure at the Thoiry Zoological Park west of Paris, France.” And finally. even though no one else has mentioned it, If rhinos and other animals are kept in zoos, their DNA is lost from the ever-shrinking DNA pool that is so badly needed in the wild. Whether male or female, and even if rhinos like Vince who was born in a zoo, once they are sexually mature animals that were not put in zoos would be mating with other rhinos, causing more births in the wild than at present, I cannot find a trustworthy source for the number of rhinos in zoos worldwide (because they differentiate between blacks and whites, African and Indian and Javanese, but no matter how many or how few there are held against their will right now, the possibilities of such an animal having DNA that could improve the race, but never will, are possible.
    For me, there are just so many good reasons to keep wild animals in the wild, where National Geographic photographers can take photos of them to show to the world, totally outrank any reason for continuing to keep animals in zoos. I will concede they can be kept in large conservation areas, but the amount of space required for one male rhino to be dominant can be as large as 64 sq.mi, or more, so the areas needed might have to be as big as 500 or 1000 sq. mi. That might be possible in Africa, but in India or Java I doubt those kinds of areas are available. But that doesn’t mean conservation shouldn’t be tried.

    Your turn,

    rawgod

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  2. I am on the rhinos’s side, and while sharing this story is honourable, if we cannot come up with someway to stop the poaching we are more than useless. we are complicit in their deaths by being human, as it is humans who are doing the poaching. I normally end a comment like this one by giving a way to correct the situation, but on this one I am at a loss. I am a pacifist, so I cannot condone using lethal force against the poachers. Nor do I believe in incarceration because that is pure revenge, and teaches the incarcerated nothing except maybe how incapable we are of protecting those who cannot protect themselves from humans and human-made weaponry. The only weapons I can think to use are education, or the destruction of all weapons and the machines that make them. But at this point in our evolution those would only be band-aids without sticky stuff to keep them from falling off. Incarcerating the victims in zoos is surely not the answer, not only because we still cannot protect them, but because it is just wrong to cage any wild animal, especially when it is just to show them off to visitors to a zoo. I cannot tell a lie and say I was not fascinated by going to the zoo as a child, but I grew up and realized that animals are people too, and deserve the same rights as people.
    Maybe the thing to do is find out to whom rhino horns, elephant or walrus tusks, or anything else people wantonly destroy for their own gratification, is to strip them of all their wealth and redistribute it among the poor, or use it to provide health clinics and clean drinking water to those who need it.
    I definitely have no compunctions about making rich people poorer than the poorest person in the world. It would only serve them right, don’t you think?

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    • Wow! You certainly gave me pause for thought here! I agree with much of what you say, disagree or question some, but I definitely did some thinking after reading your comment, and that is what this should all be about. For starters, after reading your comment, I asked myself: why did I write this post? I think the answer is because it broke my heart and I just needed to share. Are we all complicit in the deaths of these animals? Certainly we can dole out blame to many, starting with those who would buy a rhino horn simply to prove how rich they are, and ending with gun manufacturers, law enforcement, and readers of news who merely shrug their shoulders and move on to the Dow stats. But to blame all humans? I may have a problem with that one. There are a lot of people out there who are working diligently for animal rights causes, working to end abuses such as those of poaching, pointless hunting, and plain cruelty. I would also agree that if we cannot come up with solutions, we are useless. This is the main source of my own angst … that i cannot see an end to these atrocities, and I cannot think of anything that would truly help put an end to it. At this point … yes, I feel truly useless. Like you, I am against capital punishment (though I must admit, I would like to bash in the heads of those guilty of killing Vince, Impy and Gugu!), but I am puzzled by your anti-incarceration stance. What would you suggest we do with people who take lives, who break the law and injure or kill others? Certainly it is true that, to an extent, incarceration is retaliation, but it is also an attempt to keep the public safe from those who have no moral compass, who take pleasure in wounding others. Much of what you say makes a lot of sense, but this one troubles me. As to weapon destruction … I am very much in favour of STRICT gun regulation, and believe that guns in the hands of ordinary citizens is a recipe for disaster, so I can readily agree with you there, but, like you, I understand that this will never happen. And as regards the ethical issues surrounding zoos, I admit I am torn here. I agree that the beautiful, majestic creatures found in zoos were meant to roam free … never meant to live in cages, or small confined spaces. However, in today’s world, for many animals those cages and confined spaces are a refuge of sorts, a place where they can be protected from poachers, hunters, and habitats threatened by environmental ravages. This is truly a two-sided coin, and I could easily argue either side. And as to stripping those who “wantonly destroy for their own gratification” of their wealth and privilege … I say “Spot On!” I have no problem with that whatsoever. In fact, I would say tie them up in the town square and give the citizens an hour alone with them! In closing, I thank you for your very thoughtful comment. You make me think about a lot of things, and I hope you will visit again soon … I’m always up for this sort of discussion!

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      • Hi Jill, amazing response. You agree with me, then you challenge me on more than one of my statements, and end up agreeing with me again. Makes an old man feel young again, lol.
        But I need to be serious. Unless I am wrong you have never had cause to be incarcerated in any way for any reason. I have been incarcerated because as a teenager of legal age, I crossed a few lines, in particular selling street drugs to eople who wanted them. This was back in the 60s, when the drug culture (hippies) were not for the most part committing crimes in order to purchase said drugs. I was merely fulfilling a need that I saw, like any good business person. But that’s neither here nor there. The 60s cannot happen again for a long long time. Anyways, I spent 3 months in jail awaiting trial, and 1 month in prison after I pleaded guilty. After a few weeks in the kind of building with cell doors and toilets without seats, in the open for anyone to see if they happened to walk by my cell while I was sitting on the throne. This was meant to break us by shaming us. BUt I wasn’t one to close washroom doors anyway, so I felt no shame in what nature called for us to do.
        After two weeks I was sent up-province to an open camp facility, where I worked on growing new seedling pines, cutting down the ones that were sick and/or rotting on the inside, and then planting the year-old seedings where the old growth had been cut down. This was actually a nice way to spend my time in prison, except that one of the guards took a particular interest in me, making my life miserable, and then putting me in the hole (solitary confinement in a very small place, too small for me to stand or stretch out when lying down) for writing a letter to a friend on the outside being totally honest about what this guard was doing. Of course, all mail was read before going out or coming in, and I needed to be taught to respect my jailers. I finished my prison time in the hole, and was released from prison barely able to stand up straight, or even to walk like a normal person. But the experience taught me a lot, and the the recidivism rate for people put in jail once was over 50%, and the more times you spent in jail the more likely you were to return. I took a vow with myself to never get caught again, (I never was) and by six months time I stopped all my illegal activities.
        But while I was incarcerated (society being kept safe from a very dangerous me) I learned a lot of ways to make money illegally, and even how to do things like kill people, turn myself in, and get off after less than a year in prison. Fortunately I was already a pacifist and passed on the “murder for hire” job.
        I ask you, does this sound like a good way to keep society safe? I don’t, because instead of trying to help prisoners learn social rules, they mixed minor offenders with bank robbers, murderers, and even ponzi-scheme experts (expert being a questionable descriptor, seeing as they were all in jail). Prison was a university for criminals, not a place of rehabilitation. And we were treated like sh*t by the authorities, not given any respect at all. Would you expect such a culture to create good citizens?
        I went on the straight and almost narrow because I knew I didn’t belong in jail, I was too smart to go there twice, twice, but not in any way because of how well I was treated as a person there.
        So here I am 50 years later, hoping I can explain to you why incarceration does not work. So how do we deal with lawbreakers? Have you heard of restorative justice?
        Restorative justice was developed by North American aboriginal people centuries ago. If a person wronged another person in any way, the first thing they had to do was to be confronted by their victim, having to learn sit and listen to how their wrongdoing affected the well-being of the victim. Then they had to apologize sincerely to the victim, however long that took, after which a justice circle was formed where each person in the circle offered up a way to punish the wrong-doer in such a way as to repay the victim for the value of the harm done. The wrong-doer would choose one of the ways to atone for their crimes, or allow the leader of the circle to make up what the punishment would be. No matter what, it would help the victim in some meaningful manner. Failure to do so meant banishment from the tribe forever.
        Banishment would not be as meaningful today as it was yesteryear, but moving the wrong-doer to a far-northern town where they could do anything they wanted as long as checked in with an authority.
        These are some of the reasons I have for not believing in incarceration.
        more later,
        Jerry

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      • Regarding your desire to cover your butt from being associated with poachers and the like, this comes from my philosophy of life. It is uniquely my own, though others may agree with me on certain points, no one agrees with me on everything. But that’s okay, I can live without confirmation. I am happily where I am.
        In my philosophy EVERY LIVING BEING is related on a level we generally can not access while we are alive. But being alive does not stop us from being related to all living things. So we are related to the rhinos, but we are also related to the poachers, and the buyers of rhino horns.While this seems a bit of an anomaly or a paradox, it is perfectly logical in my philosophy. And, in being related to both victim and killer, we have failed our dead siblings by not protecting then, and we have failed our poacher siblings by not making sure they understand the wrongness of what they are doing This has all been well reasoned out in this incarnation, and by commenting on blogs like these is how I offer my philosophy for others to thing about, even if they do not agree. I am planting seeds in your mind that might sprout seedlings in the future, at which time the person in whom the sprouts are growing then take over care of the plants, and grow them in directions I may never have thought of. This is why I enjoyed your first comment to me so much. I could tell you were at least ready to accept the seeds, even if you will not accept the full-grown plants in me.. I have to go see my eye doctor now, but I will answer your next challenge later in the day.

        rawgod
        rawgodsspiritualatheism.wordpress.com

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        • I am definitely NOT ignoring you, or distancing myself from you. I have limited time, and am still pondering your comments … never fear … I shall share my thoughts with you as soon as I have processed all that you said. 🙂

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          • Sorry, no such thing was meant to be taken out of what I said. I was merely joking about how much time you spent distancing yourself from poachers and horn buyers. My sense of humour is too dry. The same kind of thing happened with Byrontasaurus the other day. I should move to England where the country is full of dry humourists, at lease until they’ve had a few pints. Please doin’t ever think I am trying to insult you or anything else nasty.I’ve been voted the nicest guy not to go out with by barmaids all over Canada. And nurses… And secretaries… And…

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            • Nonono … I did not take anything you said as an insult at all! I’ve just not been able to spend as much time as I would like on my blog today, and really did not want you to feel that I was ignoring you. 🙂 I knew you were joking … at least about the distancing myself. All is good, and I do plan to respond to some of the seeds you planted … or perhaps didn’t get planted 😉

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              • Please, Jill, no need to tell me you haven’t got time for me (but thank you all the same), I’m a big boy now and when you get the time to talk to me, I will try to listen through both ears and an open mind between. Though it does seem I am neglecting my own blog at present, but really I was on a 5 day 5 city medical trip which included having a new procedure done on my old knees, and with my girlfriend breaking her arm when she slipped on the ice on Tuesday. As my old girlriend Roseanne Rosannadanna’s mother used to say, “There’s always something!”

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  3. The amount of corruption in my country, and I guess the rest of Africa, is so crazy high that in most of these instances some high officials are involved and are getting a cut. Which would explain why poachers walk free. A sad state indeed.

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    • Yes, very sad. I think that if we had as many wild animals here as you did, it would be much the same here. People are pretty much the same at heart all around the globe, my friend. But yes, it is very sad … Hugs to you Deb! 🙂

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  4. This is real depravity. It’s beyond evil.To kill an animal for something that can’t even be eaten is terrible but when it’s something that’s meant to be an aphrodisiac makes it really sick. Anyone caught doing this deserves a very long sentence. How those two men were released I’ll never know.
    xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

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