One of these animals may have the power to save the other 3. Do you know who it is?

If being an endangered species was a support group, there'd be a lot of fighting over chairs.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists almost 20,000 threatened species.

But you know who'd always get a chair? The rhino.


And really, rhinos are super important because they function kind of like a "sponsor" at an AA meeting — helping other animals make it.

Besides, if they wanna sit down, who is going to stop them? Image from Jon Mountjoy/Flickr.

There are five species of rhino, spread throughout Africa and Asia. In general, rhinos would really love nothing more than to be left alone to eat, sleep, and make more, smaller rhinos to carry on their rhino legacies. But life isn't fair.

Thanks to a demand for rhino horns and humans deciding that prime rhino habitat is a really good place for some shopping malls, their numbers have been falling. The rhino population has gotten so small that some places are using drones and private armies to protect them.

Some types of rhinos, like the southern white rhino, are still relatively numerous. But others, like the Sumatran and Javan rhinos, number less than 100. There may be only three northern white rhinos left.

This is, unfortunately, a story familiar to a lot of species.

Even more unfortunately, not all of these other species have the star power or recognition that a rhino does. Some are not well-known and some are just, uh...

This is an unfortunate-looking proboscis monkey. Image from Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia Commons.

...not as photogenic.

But here's the good news: Saving a rhino does something kind of magical.

Saving a plot of land for rhinos helps save all their neighbors too. It's a total bargain, a kind of two-for-one deal for protecting the animal kingdom, but involving otters, weasels, and leopards!

Protecting rhinos helps lots of other animals, like this pinecone-looking pangolin!

Image from David Brossard/Flickr.

You may have never heard of them, but pangolins may be the world's most trafficked mammal. The same protected areas and anti-poaching laws passed to protect big stars like rhinos may help save them too.

But wait, there's more! Because there's more than one species of rhino!

Protecting the habitat of the Sumatran rhino also helps protect this adorable family of Asian small-clawed otters, for instance.

These otters are deeply invested in rhino conservation. Image from Neil McIntosh/Flickr.

And this nappy binturong (aka the weasel version of Wilford Brimley):

He's dreaming about a rhino getting full habitat protection. Image from jinterwas/Flickr.

Fun fact: Binturongs laugh when they're happy and smell like popcorn.

And this clouded leopard!

This leopard is harder to see, so just save the rhino and get his habitat thrown in for free! Image from Dr. Raju Kasambe/Wikimedia Commons.

Why is saving the rhino such a powerful choice when it comes to saving animals?

Rhinos need a lot of space. A pair of female white rhinos can have a home territory of up to about 12 square miles, so keeping a healthy rhino population means setting aside a lot of land.

But rhinos aren't the only ones that live on that land, so protecting just one pair of rhinos also means protecting a host of their smaller neighbors. Regulations to prevent poaching and trafficking often help save other animals too. Their ability to protect their neighboring species means rhinos are crucial for their ecosystems.

Rhinos can be both a flagship species — one species used as a symbol for an entire ecosystem — and an umbrella species one species whose protection trickles down to many others.

These guys? A total bargain for saving many species. Image from International Rhino Foundation/Wikimedia Commons.

That's why for everyone out there who loves to save coupons or is always on the hunt for an amazing deal, saving a rhino is a total bargain.

So a lot of animals might be happy to have a superstar neighbor like a rhino around.

Even if it means giving up their seat at the next endangered species meeting.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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