back to article Horn star Sudan, last male northern white rhino, dies aged 45

Sudan, aka "The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World” as per hook-up app Tinder, the last male northern white rhino, shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday, aged 45. The sombre news was announced by the snub-nosed giant's home, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Laikipia County, in the foothills of Mount Kenya, in a tweet earlier …

"Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we're now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day"

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Extinction

I recently read the rather excellent "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari. He says that you can chart primitive mankind's progress around the world by looking at the time that megafauna in that location began to go extinct. Once sapiens moved to a new area, the large easily-hunted megafauna would be hunted at a faster rate than they could reproduce, and be extinct within the course of just a few generations.

Or, put another way, mankind is generally a bit of a s**t.

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Boffin

Re: Extinction

+1 for Sapiens - a great read.

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If we have never obseved them by this point... Will they be missed?

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Re: Extinction

Arguably, the process that involved the primitive man was a natural one. Imagine lions moving into a new territory and finding a nice, juicy species that had no similar natural enemies before. Sucks to be that species, but that's how nature works: when conditions change and you cant adapt, you go extinct and make room for others. The problem that wildlife has with the modern man is a different one: we destroy natural habitats and hunt down animals for trophies (as was the case with the northern white rhino).

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I realize you may be trolling. But fuck you.

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Angel

Re: Extinction

"we destroy natural habitats and hunt down animals for trophies"

not so much any more. but that is the way of nature, isn't it? the apex predator causes extinction.

So we go against our own nature and act a bit more responsibly, instead. You know, like putting out forest fires, rescuing wildlife from natural [or other kinds of] disasters, and saving endangered species. That kind of thing. Only humans do THAT.

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Re: Extinction

Seriously?

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Facepalm

Rhino horns are so valuable that people steal them from museums. All that for a substance which you can get from biting your nails.

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Anonymous Coward

All that for a substance which you can get from biting your nails.

Tell this one to the Chinese.

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Well, they'll all be impotent soon enough, won't they? Poachers are steadily dwindling the rhino population as I type.

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The obvious answer is to find some way of poisoning the horn in a way that doesn't harm the rhino, but makes the end product fatal to consume (an alternative acceptable outcome is that it makes the receipient's genitals shrivel up, drop off, or do something else similarly amusing).

Maybe it would be worth seeing if Mr. Putin could be persuaded to take an interest in megafauna conservation?

(After all, he seems to consider being viewed as an animal lover to be good propaganda.)

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The obvious answer is to find some way of poisoning the horn in a way that doesn't harm the rhino,

Some wildlife reserves actually cut the horns from the rhinos who seem to be able to copy OK without them. Without the horn in situ, there is no reason for a poacher to point his gun at the beast.

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Unhappy

"Some wildlife reserves actually cut the horns from the rhinos who seem to be able to copy OK without them"

This has proven to be ineffective in many places (as it is the same for elephants) as the poachers shoot them once they track them down.

Killing all the ones without the horns makes it easier to track those with the horns / tusks.

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Poisoning

the horn will not stop poachers or people buying it!

"Is this horn poisoned"?

"No, of course not, Meester".

"Ok, I'll buy it".

Horn is exchanged for cash. Do you think the poacher will give a flying fuck whether his one time customer is poisoned?

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Thumb Down

Re: Poisoning

"Do you think the poacher will give a flying fuck whether his one time customer is poisoned?"

Since these business dealings like any good drug deal rely on repeat business and word of mouth that the product is good. So yes, they will give a flying fuck...

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Go

Re: Poisoning

By the way, I unfortunately dont see poisoning the ivory or the like having an effect. The money available to facilitate crime, in this case removing the effects of the poison from the ivory, is always higher than that involved in attempting to police it or prevent it.

I think a simpler solution would be possible - simply anyone caught poaching or dealing in ivory gets castrated (sharpness of knife can be variable). That should reduce the numbers willing to do the poaching in the first place, and those further down the line will no longer be in need of the aphrodisiac after the operation. Should act as a deterrent...

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Re: Poisoning

"Since these business dealings like any good drug deal rely on repeat business and word of mouth that the product is good."

Not necessarily if the demand is not triggered by them (and it doesn't; it goes to fertility and involves nonphysical qualities, so they're picky about where the keratin comes from; after all, can science explain acupuncture?). So if there are enough potential clients, the sellers may not care about the customers. One dies, another will replace him.

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Re: Poisoning

And if they find out the sellers are already eunuchs? Or women? Most of these people don't get the horn for themselves, after all.

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Re: Poisoning

That would just raise the price, leading to some people taking the higher risk to get the higher reward *.

It would likely see other side effects such as poachers no longer being individuals with rifles, but groups with machine guns.

* Yes, the free market does work, who knew?

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Re: Poisoning

"It would likely see other side effects such as poachers no longer being individuals with rifles, but groups with machine guns."

It's already at that point, and we're talking big stuff like BARs; they're capable of shooting at helicopters now. They even put prices on the heads of the rangers. The amount of money in the trade, they could wipe out every animal in central Africa and they wouldn't bat an eyelid.

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Re: Poisoning

'I think a simpler solution would be possible - simply anyone caught poaching or dealing in ivory gets castrated'

I'm sure I read somewhere that the Kenyans were taking a slightly more hard line stance than that, i.e. they weren't that worried about the poachers being dead.

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Sadly, that doesn't work. Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa experimented with this in the late 90's and early 00's. Rhinos were sedated and had their horns removed. However, poachers still killed them because they'd spend a day or so tracking the rhino, only to find one without a horn. So they machine gun it anyway so that they didn't waste time tracking a horn-less rhino again by accident.

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Maybe it would be worth seeing if Mr. Putin could be persuaded to take an interest in megafauna conservation?

Megafauna not so much as it has been extinct in Siberia for millenia, but conservation - definitely: http://programmes.putin.kremlin.ru/tiger/

After all, he seems to consider being viewed as an animal lover to be good propaganda.

Indeed. Though on the balance of things we tend to provide him with better propaganda than anything he does.

I had a conversation with an elderly (and very pro-Putin) Russian lady after their elections. Her comment was: "Are all politicians in Britain retarded? He was going to win anyway, but why the hell did you give him 5-7% extra. Does your lot have even the faintest idea of how an unsupported accusation with a refusal to provide evidence will work on the typical "victim complex" Russian psyche? Do they actually employ someone who knows what are they doing?" I could only sigh and tell her that she is observing the effect of a red Oxford brick stuffed up an arse. I could not really add up anything up to it - she was bloody right. 100%.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poisoning

Since these business dealings like any good drug

They use the same people and the same transport channels. So supplying damaged goods is one of the last mistakes a poacher can make.

As far as poisoning it... That is actually not that difficult - it is keratin mostly so sticking some "interesting stuff" into it which does not harm the animal is theoretically possible. Provided that the stuff does not leak until the horn is processed... There is quite a wide choice of options there.

Good "civilian application" for some solid phospororganic compounds... No, I am not joking - one pellet with that which is properly sealed so it does not leak until the horn goes into the cutter/grinder should do the job. It will deal with the whole supply chain in one go.

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"...All that for a substance which you can get from biting your nails."

Hmmm... I wonder if synthetic rhino horn could be made from human fingernails, at a price low enough to compete with poachers? I suspect there would be no end of people willing to contribute their trimmings.

Some lying to the horn dealers might be required ("oh, yes, this came from a for-real, genuine rhino!"), but I'd say it would be in a good cause.

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"The obvious answer is to find some way of poisoning the horn in a way that doesn't harm the rhino, but makes the end product fatal to consume"

Low level radioactivity would do it --- relatively harmless for the individual, dangerous for those who handle (and especially process) lots of horn

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The only answer is to eliminate demand. Literally. Capital punishment for anyone not only trafficking but also buying, in any quantity. Draconian I know.

Now, if only the government of the main source of demand were a highly controlling one, often keen to make a statement and not too scrupulous about human rights...

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some countries have huge stockpiles of horn hidden in warehouses. All it does is push the price of fresh horn up and serves as a huge incentive for poachers.

They should sell the horn on the market to drop its price and provide a disincentive for poachers and encourage rhino horn farming so people actively want these animals to live. Maybe some poachers may turn to farming?

The Chinese government has huge influence in the so called developing world as they are financing a lot of their infrastructure projects and providing people with jobs. sitting in the west and moaning isn't going to solve their problems.

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Tell this one to the Chinese.

I do. I save up my toenail clippings and send them to the Chinese embassy every year. They never thank me...

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Unhappy

Poisoning the horns... or 3-D printing them.

Over a year ago, rhino horns started turning bright pink. They had been injected with ectoparasiticides; cattle wormer medicine, enough to make a consumer of horn quite ill. Sadly the bright pink proved to be on digitally altered pics only, but the horn is pink inside, which may or may not be helpful.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/rhinos-elephants-getting-pink-horns-prevent-poaching/

As mentioned even this won't stop the poachers from killling the rhino.

Another idea has been 3-D printing rhino horn to flood the market with a counterfeit substitute, made from keratin. However, this would just cover up the illegal trade without deterring poachers.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/3d-printed-rhino-horn-developed/

A French zoo last year had the shameful task of reporting that one of their Southern White Rhinos had been killed overnight and his horn stolen.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/07/rhino-shot-dead-by-poachers-at-french-zoo

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An alternative product.

I have heard that the testes of a man who has killed a rhino, have exactly the same medicinal properties.

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Pint

We gents should be so lucky!

Only a bucket of semen remains...

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Re: We gents should be so lucky!

I hope to one day read that sentence in my local newspaper's obituary page.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We gents should be so lucky!

Only a bucket of semen remains...

Coming and going?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We gents should be so lucky!

Yeah - once it's aged to "vintage", it will be worth an absolute fortune!

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Re: We gents should be so lucky!

"I hope to one day read that sentence in my local newspaper's obituary page."

If you start collecting now, it might still be possible...

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Re: We gents should be so lucky!

Wonder how long it took him to fill that?

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Joke

Re: We gents should be so lucky!

If you were able to produce semen by the bucket load, I think your more immediate concern would be finding trousers that fit.

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Re: We gents should be so lucky!

Or use a wheelbarrow. Like Buster Gonad.

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Sad news.

Schuster's* rhino horn ointment** should be a real hit then

*as seen in "Oh shucks, it's UNTAG"

**rubbed on the member***

***contains copious amounts of concentrated chilli oils

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Joke

#whitegenocide.... /jokealert

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the Chinese are the real arseholes

poachers are scum. but there will always be scum feeding demand.... it's the millions of arsehols demanding this 'traditional'/quakery medicine that are the real pond life.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

I've not done any independent research, but according to "Last chance to see" (brilliant book; read it) it is a myth that the Chinese use rhino horn as an aphrodisiac. Yemeni dagger handles were mentioned as a real market for rhino horn. However, that book was from around 1990. A quick google suggests the Vietnamese have been creating demand recently. These fashions can change rather quickly. The Chinese government has been doing the Right Thing recently in the case of ivory. (Thanks, China.)

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Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

That's a broad brush you're using there. They aren't arseholes, they're ignorant. The problem is educating them is laborious, time consuming, and likely full of pitfalls.

The easiest solution may be to farm rhinos for their horn, it is the same as fingernails and hair after all, and supplement the supply with artificial horn. This would reduce the price and hopefully make poaching unprofitable. It was only ten years ago when trade in rhino horn was legal and in South Africa there were only ~1% as many rhinos poached then as there are today.

As far as the 'traditional'/quackery medicine crack goes, I'll remind you that it wasn't so many years ago that your ancestors were sucking on willow bark as an analgesic. TCM needs scientific study to see whether there are useful compounds in some of the concoctions rather than just dismissing it as quackery, which isn't to say all of it is worth studying. Specifically rhino horn is already well understood to have no actual medicinal benefit.

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Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

The Chinese quacks will simply insist on fully-traced wild-grown rhino horn and will turn down any substitutes as not potent enough. And they won't accept scientific explanations for anything because they practice things that work yet defy science (like acupuncture).

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Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

things that work yet defy science

I thought science just couldn't explain.

Defying sounds like science saying it's not possible and it working anyway.

Science might be able to explain 60-80% of the universe, but it's not a totally flawless world view - how could it be, humans invented and practice it.

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Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

"things that work ... (like acupuncture)."

Except that acupuncture doesn't work either. Not in large scale controlled tests. Its only benefit is that it's a cheap placebo.

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Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

"Except that acupuncture doesn't work either. Not in large scale controlled tests. Its only benefit is that it's a cheap placebo."

They'll just say you're doing it wrong, and that there's no way to do it right in a controlled manner.

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