Deadly love that has decimated thousands of rhinos

30-year-old ranger Salome Lemalasia from the Samburu community taking care of a 6-year-old black rhino named Loijipu. [David Gichuru, Standard]

The hunters' unsolicited toxic love towards rhinoceros in Kenya has been disastrous. The low-vision beast has been hunted nearly to extinction in the country which has heavily relied on the species to attract tourists. 

A peek into Kenya’s history shows how the country has been riding on the rhino's fame while thousands of gullible couples around the world have been wowed by the beast’s fake horn to spice up their romance. 

In November 1911, some hunters nearly rioted when the colonial government tried to limit the number of rhinos a person could kill.

So enraged were the nature lovers that a game warden was summoned before the Legislative Council (Legco) – equivalent of today’s Parliament – to explain why he was sabotaging the economy.

The warden appeared before the Legco on November 11 and explained that he was not trying to curtail privileges of the settlers or prevent farmers from killing all rhinos in their farms.

He said the policy limiting the killing of one rhino per person was intended for visitors who came to East Africa on shooting trips. "Any man should be perfectly satisfied with killing one rhinoceros," he said.

The warden's reasoning for limiting the number of rhinos a person should kill was that the big game, especially the elephant and the rhinoceros, offered the greatest attraction to visiting sportsmen. There was concern even then that the number of the Big 5 animals had decreased at an alarming rate and that is why the warden was trying to intervene.

Two years earlier, former US President Theodore Roosevelt had executed one of Kenya’s biggest hunting operation which left a bloody trail in the wild.

Roosevelt and his 500 porters who carried his guns, ammunition, champagne and portable bath saw more than 11,397 animals killed. Of these, 262 were slaughtered and eaten by the presidential hunting party. A total of 20 rhinos, 11 elephants and 17 lions were shot, skinned and later stuffed and carted off to museums in America.

The warden was particularly concerned by the fate of the rhino whose breeding pace he described as slow, as well as its maturity age which was equally monumental.

The warden’s parting shot was eerily prophetic. ”It would be too late to attempt to preserve such animals as the rhinoceros and the elephants when their numbers had been reduced below certain level.”

More than 100 years later, Kenya has a paltry 1,739 rhinos and some of the species have been hunted into extinction.