May 19, 2009

Hairy Rhino

Does it get much more endearing than this? A mother nuzzling her wee bairn? When I first encountered a photo of the Sumatran rhino, I thought it was a was plastic figurine of a rhino, which is the only reason why it shows up here as opposed to a cute animal site.

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of the rhinos, though they still weigh in at over a thousand pounds. They are also the hairiest of the rhinos, and are believed to be descended from the wooly rhino of yore. They inhabit dense jungle and are adept cliff climbers. Their territory once included all of Southeast Asia, from India to China. They are now only found in a few populations, with perhaps as few as 300 left in the wild.



















Any guesses as to why they are so critically endangered? Sure, loss of habitat is a contributor. But that's not the main cause, not by a long shot. That's right, you've guessed it. Poaching to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine market. I can't think of many things that have been a greater bane to endangered species the world over than TCM. According to the wikipedia entry, a kilogram of Sumatran rhino horn fetches around 30,000 USD.

On a lighter note, despite being a solitary creature, the Sumatran rhino is the most vocal of the rhinoceroses. They vocalize almost continually in various infrasound frequencies that sound a lot like humpback whale songs.

They also communicate by marking the soil with their feet, twisting saplings into patterns, and with its excrement. Twisting saplings into patterns? Anyone know more about that?

15 comments:

The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls said...

They almost look like cartoon characters. I would expect to see something like this singing in a Disney Movie. They are cute. How could you not love a creature that is being so motherly.

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

heh. I think rhinos are cute and ugly. It makes me angry that people think it's OK to poach wild animals for their own selfish gain.

snake said...

Hello,

Do you know where to find different chinese medecine as Snake wine ? I already own this one:
http://www.asiansnakewine.com

But looking for different types of natural medecine.
Thanks for help.

(by the way I found your website on Google when looking for Snake wine bottles)

AnonAnonAnon said...

"Poaching to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine market. I can't think of many things that have been a greater bane to endangered species the world over than TCM."

And that is a perfect example of why it needs to be pointed out that things which do not work, well, don't work. That is why critical thinking, research, evidence, and expertise should be valued over faith, magical thinking, and other kinds of superstitious nonsense. They're all sides of the same coin, symptoms of the same disease.


(wombat- sorry, but you gotta admit that this is indeed on topic and on an important topic)

Anonymous said...

"And that is a perfect example of why it needs to be pointed out that things which do not work, well, don't work. That is why critical thinking, research, evidence, and expertise should be valued over faith, magical thinking, and other kinds of superstitious nonsense. They're all sides of the same coin, symptoms of the same disease."

Its certainly worth discussing, however I feel this is an inappropriate place to be doing it. People come here to discuss the interesting things found on this site in a friendly way not to debate differing beliefs. Everyone has a right to their own thoughts and beliefs, they also have the right to go about their daily lives without being attacked by people who think they need to make everyone else think like them in attempt to validate their own beliefs. Im a scientist and Im a firm believer in science, but as a scientist I recognize there is a lot that science cant explain. I also recognize that its rude to push my opinions on others. Please be mature and avoid starting arguments about faith etc. We are here to discuss the kritters.

That said, Im madly in love with rhinos, especially the babies! Id love to hear the whale-like sounds made by these ones. I love how moms tongue is just peeking out of the corner of her mouth. That baby rhino is anything but ugly!

April Lorier said...

Wow! Who knew you knew my ex? :-)

Seriously, very informative post. I did notice it reminded me of those good old diaper days with my kids, though. ha!

Anonymous said...

"Twisting saplings into patterns? Anyone know more about that?"

Yes, it's a hairy rhino mating behavior. To impress potential mates, they use their tongue to tie knots in maraschino cherry stems.

AAAnoNNN said...

Anon- "however I feel this is an inappropriate place to be doing it."

Fair enough, you're entitled to your opinion. Personally I don't think any place is inappropriate for discussing rationality, reality, and things which could improve the world.

"People come here to discuss the interesting things found on this site "

As I mentioned in my first post, this discussion IS on topic. Faith-based beliefs, dogma, and uncritical thinking is what is driving these rhinos to extinction.

"people who think they need to make everyone else think like them in attempt to validate their own beliefs."

Pfft, nonsense. I don't need my beliefs validated by random strangers on the internet. I validate my beliefs with reality. And yes, I do wish other people would engage in rational, logical discussions based on the evidence and reality, instead of basing their beliefs on wishful thinking, dogma, and logical fallacies. I don't want people to think what I think, nor even exactly HOW I think, I just want them to think rationally and to base their beliefs on evidence. We might disagree about the conclusions, but that's the point of debating- trying to come to the right conclusion by exchanging our views about what the evidence indicates about reality.

"but as a scientist I recognize there is a lot that science cant explain."

Right now, certainly. Otherwise there wouldn't be such a thing as science. I don't know what the ultimate limits of science will be, I'm sure there are some. However, that does not mean that religion /faith / superstition/ dogma / tradition can explain the things science can't. There is some things which we don't know right now and may never know, but that doesn't mean you can just make up whatever you want. The only valid belief about such things is that we don't know and may never know.

Hmmmm said...

cute..,..

Yvonne Navarro said...

I don't think there is ever an inappropriate place, or a bad time, to call attention to those things (beliefs, people, behavior, whatever) which through irrationality and ignorance will ultimately eradicate things in this incredible world which are unique and irreplaceable. TCM falls into the category of things which will ultimately make many of the topics discussed on this site go from "here's a photo of something endangered" to "here's a photo of something extinct." In my opinion, for whatever it's worth, that's more than enough reason to keep discussing it. Over and over.

Raging Wombat said...

Maraschino cherries - ha!

Regarding the faith debate raging around these rhinos: I utterly abhor TCM. There isn't enough contempt with which to hold it. However, to equate "keep us in your thoughts and prayers" (since this is the original comment that sparked this debate) with "poach that critically endangered rhino and grind up its horn so I can be more virile" isn't appropriate. It's at best a strawman fallacy. You may choose to lump them in the same category (which I don't): but one is at least relatively benign, while the other, as Yvonne put it, leads to extinction.

Anon 69/23 said...

Well said Yvonne.

Wombat: "There isn't enough contempt with which to hold it."

Agreed.

"However, to equate [...]"

I didn't equate the two, I simply compared them and identified the root causes of both beliefs as being the same (faith, superstition, dogma, uncritical thinking, etc). Besides, they are both EQUALLY valid beliefs.

Ironically, you're also the one making a strawman argument. TCM isn't just about making people more virile, TCM is supposed to actually cure diseases. Many of those diseases are horrible and potentially deadly diseases. I believe last time you said that me pointing out that prayer is worthless is "offensive" or something like that. Well, I assure you that if someone who believes that TCM cured their grandfather of cancer or something stupid like that reads what you said, they would have much more of a right to be offensive than april. A house can be replaced, your grandfather can't. Saying "There isn't enough contempt with which to hold it" is about as offensive to believers of TCM as anything I could have ever possibly said about prayer or to April.

Mind you, I am NOT saying I disagree with your view on TCM.

"but one is at least relatively benign, while the other, as Yvonne put it, leads to extinction."

As I said before, I don't consider prayer to be relatively benign. You could certainly argue that in that particular instance it was, but that's irrelevant. It's a matter of principle. For lack of a better example, consider homophobia. I presume you would agree that it is wrong in principle, but that not every single person who is prejudiced against gays will actually cause harm to other people, right? Does that mean that when someone expresses homophobic views, however mild, you should just let it go? Of course not, you say something because it is wrong in principle.

I'm using that as an analogy, I am NOT saying homophobia is either better or worse than prayer. However, I AM saying that prayer (and the reasons why people believe it) is wrong in principle, and as such it is morally appropriate (required, even) to point that out.

Raging Wombat said...

I should have clarified my stance on TCM: any branches or teachings of it (and TCM is far from any sort of monolithic entity) that lead directly to the sort of thing that we find with this rhino is what I hold in contempt. TCM encompasses a wide variety teachings, many of which are just now earning the respect of Western medicine.

Vanessa said...

'When the buying stops, the killing can too.' - WildAid @ www.wildaid.org


You can see WildAids wonderful PSA's on poaching, for medicinal products and tourist trinkets, here:
http://www.youtube.com/user/WildAid

My favourites are the Harrison Ford, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9KCTFjEIlA&feature=channel_page, and Vincent Zhao, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCglHMv9lhg&feature=channel_page, ones.

jpbenney said...

For those who think Sumatran rhino horn really is unusually expensive, you are in fact quite wrong.

In 1991, I recall reading in The Age that one gram of 80 percent pure cocaine cost as much as five hundred Australian dollars!

In comparison, one gram of Sumatran rhino horn costs around 35 to 55 Australian dollars, or less than a tenth the price of cocaine! So one can hardly see the price as an excuse for killing them!