Prepare yourself for some truly devastating news out of the Vatican. A spokesman for the city-state has announced that despite their best efforts over the years to protect them, only three black rhinos now remain in St. Peter’s Basilica.
This is just terrible.
After the unexpected passing earlier this week of one of the cathedral’s majestic rhinos, the once-thriving Vatican black rhinoceros population has dwindled even closer to the brink of extinction. It used to be that you could enter St. Peter’s and almost expect to see a rhino resting beneath Bernini’s baldacchino, but now, those sightings are unfortunately down to just a few times a year.
Despite being watched over by the Swiss Guard, two young male rhinos have fallen victim to poachers over the past eight months. And with the only remaining male in the herd too old to naturally reproduce, things are looking bleak for biodiversity in the Holy See. A team of Vatican cardinals have made several attempts to artificially inseminate the females, but there’s been no success so far, leaving this species in dire straits.
Vatican officials are doing all they can, although a recent restoration of a Michelangelo fresco has encroached on space used by the rhinos for grazing. That, along with an increase in disruptive liturgical councils being added to the basilica’s schedule over the past decade, have left this black rhino herd in a constant struggle to survive. At this rate, it’s looking like there may be none left in the basilica come 2035, which is truly tragic to contemplate.
Without a single black rhino spotted during any of the last three Christmas Eve masses, it seems hard to believe that the population will ever thrive again. It may regrettably be too little, too late for these magnificent creatures.