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9. Cultural Heritage and Campus Rhino Day
    October 1, 2018

On Friday, September 21st, the campus community held a special event to celebrate International Rhino Day (Sept. 22) and South African Cultural Heritage Day (Sept. 24). There were events to honor both.

The original plan was to kick-off the afternoon with a debate about the pros and cons of legalizing the sale of rhino horn (harvest would occur by sedating rhinos and carefully removing horns at a safe distance from the face). The debate was either postponed or cancelled (we’re still not sure which), though fortunately we got a mini-version at dinner the night before when we asked our friends George and Peter what they thought.

George is currently the president of the student council. He's from Zambia where efforts are underway to re-establish rhino populations after complete eradication due to poaching. He's in favor of legalization. Here are some of his reasons:

  • Most of the money currently going towards anti-poaching efforts could be spent on other causes, including general conservation efforts, education, and development of impoverished communities abutting natural areas.
  • Current anti-poaching efforts are not working very well.
  • Slowing the illegal trade would reduce violence.
  • Legalization would reduce profits for leaders of poaching syndicates.

George taking a selfie on his iPad with me and April in the background.

Peter is a Master's Student from South Africa, a country that is spending millions of dollars each year on anti-poaching efforts. He made the following points:

  • How will the new regulations be enforced?
  • Under legalization, it will be difficult to prevent forging of documents for illegally harvested rhino horns.
  • Legalization will make it easier to traffic any type of rhino horn, regardless of how it is procured.
  • It’s not ok to exploit these animals.

Peter working on his mosquito larvae study.

It's clear that both George and Peter have a firm understanding of the various sides of this issue, and, despite the seriousness of the topic, the "mini-debate" ended with lots of laughter!

The actual festivities began with a parade and poster contest.

The ranger unit during the parade.

Some of the many posters on display.

Image   Image
Two of our favorite posters.

One of the poster contest winners.

Next came a photo-shoot with the stuffed rhino mascot.




The afternoon culminated with sharing of culture through skits, costumes, and food and drink from a variety of African countries, including South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, and the Central African Republic. One nice aspect of this event was that the audience was mostly made up of other students; we felt lucky to be invited.

Video mashup of the skits and dancing.




Though we definitely didn't understand everything from the skits and dances, themes included rites of passage into adulthood for boys and girls, cultural similarities and differences in dance and food among different tribes and countries, and marriage negotiations between families of bride and groom, including how many cattle, goats, sheep, etc. would be paid to the bride’s family.

And, then there was the sharing of traditional food.

Mopane worms, an important source of protein in many parts of southern Africa.

Mmmm, delicious!

Yes, we did try some! To me they tasted like fried fish with lemon.

For me, the skits and dancing were the highlight of the entire afternoon, though the mopane worms came in a close second. We’ve learned that they're easy to find in markets, and because they come dried, they keep for months. Maybe we’ll bring some home to share . . .