15 Years of Collecting Rhino Semen Is Finally Paying Off
“It’s truly priceless. Part of the world’s cultural heritage.”
KATE CONNOLLY MAR. 24, 2018 6:00 AM
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“This technology will provides us with the missing link,” Hildebrandt said.
When asked why it matters, and is there not an argument for seeing extinction as part of evolution, Hildebrandt becomes irate.
“It is very arrogant to ask why this is important,” he said. “We humans kill a species in its very fragile habitat, and then ask: ‘why is it important to rescue it?’ This animal is at the end of a complex biological system. Its faeces provides food for thousands of insects, its skin living space for ox picker birds, the branches it breaks down through walking through the jungle provides food for antelopes and produces pathways to escape from leopards. It is like a landscape architect on which many species are dependent.
“We learnt a bit about disturbed ecosystems through the ebola and AIDS crises. We don’t know what the long-term effect on the ecosystem might be, but we definitely disturb it by removing such an animal.”
Given its potential for success and the way it has captured the public imagination after Sudan’s death, it is a surprise to discover that the rhino preservation project is something most of the scientists involved are mainly doing in their spare time.
“Everything would have been a little faster had we had solid financing,” Hildebrandt said. “We’re not running out of money, the truth is we never had any money for this.”
The institute is trying to use the momentum created by Sudan’s death to galvanise support. “A 10-year-old girl donated the €100 from her piggy bank towards our work this week. So kids really recognise the importance of this, even if politicians don’t,” Hildebrandt said.
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Politicians and bureaucrats couldn’t recognize something more important that their own future. I have to admire the foresight of some folks to preserve the future options.
Growing up on SciFi and later computer games, I learned from Wally Crothier’s Adventure game that if you killed the bird at step 4, you never could get by the snake in step 7. SO to, we don’t know what, if anything, we will discover useful in the White Rhino in the future. Maybe it’s the cure for cancer or athlete’s foot. Who knows? And, really who cares? Only some “crazy human” somewhere preserving his collection of “Crowley’s dung bettles”.
As always, “first do no harm” should be like Star Trek’s Prime Directive (i.e., MYOB).
Glad to see that there are some very smart people “saving the world” one semen sample at a time.
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