Bonnie and Clyde live on a small reserve in South Africa with hundreds of other animal species. Instead of robbing banks and outrunning the police, they spend their days with their heads on the ground grazing away like little lawn mowers. But despite their peaceful existence, the white rhino couple are constantly in danger.
Rhinos have large horns on their heads used for fighting and defense. The horns are made of keratin which is the same thing as human fingernails. There’s nothing special about the keratin and it is basically useless. Regardless, around 2,000 rhinos are poached every year for their horns which are then sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars in places like China and Vietnam. Some believe they can cure cancer and some just use them as a status symbol. Whatever the reason, white rhinos are now near threatened with only 20,000 left in the wild.
Bonnie and Clyde were victims of this terrible market for horns back in 2013 when they were poached. The intruders shot them with M99 to paralyze them so they could saw off their horns. However, it didn’t make them unconscious, so they felt the entire brutal pain of the attack. Most rhinos don’t make it after this because the poachers cut so deep into the horn that it messes up their naval cavity. Bonnie and Clyde were lucky and somehow survived the assault. But the hardest battle was still to come.
When the reserve workers found the rhinos, they had so much M99 in their system that even a small dosage would have killed them. So they had to treat the rhino’s injuries and take blood samples without any anesthesia. They were able to save the rhinos but the lasting effects of M99 lived on. Bonnie has had four miscarriages since the incident because of the lingering M99 in her system. Rhino numbers are imperative right now, yet Bonnie cannot help.
Despite all of Bonnie and Clyde’s struggles and survival, they are still endangered. Like fingernails, the horns grow back slowly, about an inch each year. So the rhinos could be poached again, and this time, it could prove to be fatal. Two more numbers in the ever increasing statistic.
Some reserves have turned to dehorning to save the species. This means that the reserves themselves remove the horns so the rhinos are useless to the poachers. However, this is can also be dangerous to the rhinos. The reserve workers have to put the rhinos under as well to dehorn, and though it’s a much lower dosage, some of it stays in their system. One worker predicted that a rhino would only be able to take five dehornings before it would die from the anesthesia.
White and black rhinos are both in trouble, but white rhinos are in more danger of poaching. The black rhinos have less numbers in the wild, but they are grazers meaning they hide in bushes and trees to eat. They are also notoriously dangerous because they are so aggressive. On the other hand, the white rhino eats grass in large open pastures. They can be aggressive, like Clyde is protective over Bonnie, but they are less intimidating. So although the black rhinos have less numbers, the white rhino is an easier target.
There is still hope. Increasingly, reserve owners are making the decision to pay for anti-poaching units to protect a precious species for future generations. Public outreach is becoming prevalent so more people are getting involved. Although there are many steps the South African government could do such as giving money to anti-poaching efforts, China has used celebrity endorsements to debunk the horn myths.
Bonnie and Clyde fight through each day just like the notorious couple they are named after. They do the real Bonnie and Clyde proud, intimidating the guests and mowing the lawn.
(picture by Makayla McGarvey)