Africa’s black rhinos are on their last legs; there were seven subspecies, and three are already extinct. In the ’70s, there were only 65,000 black rhinos left. As Asian economies boomed, demand there for traditional, rhino-horn-based “medicine” paid for a corresponding boom in rhino poaching. Now there are just 2,500 black rhinos left.
Of those, 450 live in Zimbabwe. That country is ruled, as it has been since 1980, by the brutal Robert Mugabe; the government is deeply corrupt, and so is the police force. Consequently, Zimbabwean conservationists have little power to stanch the rhino-killing. Last week, though, a white knight saved 5 black rhinos, the first of 20 rhinoceros refugees who are being airlifted out of harm’s way. It’s the first step in a new conservation program: Zimbabwe’s rhinos will find a safe home in neighboring Botswana.
There are no two ways about it—Botswana is a remarkable country. When it became independent of Great Britain in 1966, it was the ninth-poorest country in the world. Eighteen months before independence, Botswana held a free and fair election. Every five years ever since, Botswana has held a free and fair election. It is a free country with a free economy and a free press, freedom of speech and religion, an independent judiciary, and a deep institutional respect for the rule of law. It’s the least corrupt country in Africa, according to Transparency International, a gem of freedom in a deeply unfree part of the world. And—as a bonus—over its 50 years of independence, its economy has grown at nearly Asian Tiger levels.
Now it’s helping save the rhinos. Unlike mosquitos or rattlesnakes, the rhinoceros is a species we would be very sorry to see perish from the earth—so The Scrapbook would like to extend its thanks and doff its homburg to Botswana’s remarkable record of democracy.