National Geographic had one of the best critter feature story published last year when reporter Bryan Christie and photojournalist Brent Stirton detailed the plight of the battle over the horns of a rhinoceros.
The horn of a rhinoceros is the world’s most valuable appendage in an exotic marketplace that values nature’s oddities, such as elephant ivory, tiger penis, and giraffe tail. Unlike the horns of many species, including cattle, rhino horn is not made of bone. It is made of keratin, a protein also found in our hair and fingernails, and if you trim a rhino’s horn, it grows back.
To gain access to this valuable commodity, sides have emerged. There are farmers who believe that illegal poaching will be curtailed if the sale of rhino horns become legal. Rhinos on private lands are routinely tranquilized and have their horns shaved off with the horns removed stored in a safe with the hope that one day they could be sold illegally.
But because the trade is illegal, poachers, including the ones behind the shooting of the black rhino bull, still surreptitiously kill rhinos.
Photojournalist Stirton won first prize in the nature stories category for his image of a dead black rhino bull, poached for its horns less than eight hours earlier at Hluhluwe Umfolozi game reserve, South Africa at the World Press Photo awards for 2017.