According to the conservation organization Groupelephant.com, there are roughly 25,000 African rhinos left in the wild. That’s down nearly two thirds from the 1970 population of 70,000, and the numbers continue to dwindle. As many as three rhinos are killed every day for their horns (which fetch big dollars on the black market), meaning that, at the current rate, there might not be any more rhinos in 25 years. The reasons rhinos are hunted are clear: their horns are worth as much as $90,000 per kilogram, and the average rhinoceros horn weighs four kilograms. On a continent where the average annual income is around $1,700, poaching a rhino and selling its horn for over $350,000 might well be worth breaking the law.
There are a number of actions that conservation and wildlife organizations—and local governments—take in order to protect the population of endanged species like rhinos, and Groupelephant.com and the Exotic Wildlife Association have another in mind: namely, moving as many as one thousand of those endangered rhinoceroses to Texas. As the San Antonio Express-News reports, EWA executive director Charly Seale sees South Texas as the perfect replacement home for the threatened species:
Seale said the purpose of bringing the rhinos to South Texas–which has similar climate and terrain to South Africa–is to conserve and propagate the endangered species.
“These animals will never be in commerce, they will not be sold, they will not be hunted,” he said, adding that the rhinos will not be able to “roam around the countryside.”
If the Exotic Wildlife Association and its allies get approval from the U.S. Department of Interior and the South Africa government, then the rhinos would be transported in crates via aircraft.
The plan for what to do with the rhinos once they’re in Texas is interesting: rather than attempt to build a rhinoceros sanctuary that could house a thousand rhinos, the organizations intend to adopt them into private homes. The rhinos they’re looking to bring in would be orphans—white rhinos, which make up the bulk of the remaining 25,000 rhinoceros, have a complicated family and social structure—and many of them will come over very young. Seale told the paper that “some of them will be in the weaning ages,” and that raising rhinos won’t be cheap, and will require background checks and the construction of new facilities to house them.
A white rhino weighs as much as 5,100 pounds, roughly five times the size of a Jersey dairy cow and more than double the size of an adult bull, which means that raising the rhinos will take a very specific kind of rancher. It’s unclear at the moment if Seale and his organization have volunteers in mind, or if they’re planning an extensive recruiting drive—but with a population at serious risk, the idea of finding them a safe home in Texas is worth considering.