It’s hard to imagine anyone can watch Ringo, a Southern White Rhinoceros calf who oozes personality from the top of his expressive Shrek-like ears and adorably plaintive whine down to his non-conformist Rhino attitude towards mud — and still claim animal emotions are merely anthropomorphic (the ascribing of human characteristics to animals) wishful thinking.
There is now plenty of research on animal emotions showing — joy, fear, cooperation, compassion, loyalty, regret, altruism, deception, a sense of fairness… are not just human traits. They are animal traits.
So it should be no surprise that Ringo, like any human child, loves to be the star of his own show!
As Marc Bekoff, evolutionary biologist and authority on animal behavior and emotion explains in his book “The Emotional Lives of Animals”:
“Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, and social neuroscience supports the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich and deep emotional lives.”
Our emotional connections to animals are a part of us recognizing our wild mammalian past. Emotions needed to survive and thrive are not something we humans have developed with our “superior intellect.” Those emotions are part of the evolutionary tool kit we brought forward with us through time.
Fortunately this happy little rhino hasn’t a clue that once he is grown, his horn may cost him his life. Because, some people choose to believe his horn holds a miracle cure. And those same people are willing to pay more by weight for it than for gold or diamonds.
The disassociation of animals from emotions, intellect and morals, is what helps explain how wildlife crime has become the fourth largest global illegal trade, according to WWF, after drugs, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.
And for rhinoceroses in the wild it has gotten particularly bad.
A hundred and fifty years ago, over a million black and white rhinos roamed the African continent. The global total of rhinos is now in the region of 25,000. Nearly 6,000 African rhinos have been poached since 2009 — 1,338 killed last year alone.
- Western Black rhinos – declared extinct in 2013.
- Northern White rhinos – only 3 known to exist, none in the wild.
- Southern White rhino – estimated to be under 20,000.
On the plus side…
- Sumatran rhino – thought extinct for 40 years. In 2013, several were spotted in the dense rain forest of Indonesian Borneo and just a few weeks ago a female Sumatran was captured for protection and breeding.
Poaching won’t stop until people stop looking for and believing in magical solutions to life — and, stop demanding and paying obscene amounts of money for the horns. Artist/videographer and rhino conservancy supporter Camilla Le May talks about why she made the video of Ringo:
“I hope my footage shows people what delightful and fascinating animals rhinos are and if it reaches eyes in the east, to encourage consumers to stop fuelling the cruel and devastating killing of these precious creatures for a fake medicine, which has no proven health benefits and is driving the various rhino species worldwide to extinction at present rates of slaughter.
The horn is keratin, the same substance as our finger nails so they may as well chew on their nails.”
Yes. And sadly, we think we have the superior intellect. I wonder if animals fool themselves as easily and as often as we do?