Rhino poaching boom in SA

As 2011 draws to a close, the true extent of the rhino poaching crisis this year is revealed. Recent figures show that over 443 rhinos have been killed so far this year in South Africa alone (as at mid-December).

Despite intensive protection efforts from field rangers and conservation bodies, there has been a dramatic 33% increase in poaching since 2010, when 333 rhinos were poached in South Africa. Furthermore, the poaching crisis is not limited to South Africa, with recent incidents in Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Even more shocking is the rapid rise in rhino poaching since 2007, when only 13 rhinos were illegally killed.

There has never been a more important time to support rhino conservation efforts and the rangers in the field. We need your help to put a stop to this increase in rhino poaching.

Why such a bad year for rhino poaching?

The increase in rhino poaching can largely be attributed to the rising value of rhino horn, which is illegally traded and predominantly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In recent years, much of this demand appears to be driven by Vietnam, with increasing numbers of Vietnamese nationals involved in the rhino poaching. This demand could possibly have increased due to an unfounded rumour that a Vietnamese government minister was cured of cancer after taking rhino horn.

With the rising value of rhino horn, those involved in rhino poaching are often highly organised, ruthless, criminal syndicates, who present a real danger to the field rangers working to protect these vulnerable rhino populations.

Poaching is barbaric

Rhino poaching is horrific. The preferred method of poaching in South Africa now is to dart the animal with a tranquiliser, then to wait until the animal is unconscious, hack off its horns with a chainsaw or machete, and then leave the animal to bleed or suffocate to death. Not all the rhinos die immediately: one rhino in Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe survived for several days before succumbing to its terrible injuries, while two animals remain in critical condition after their horns were hacked out on 11 December at Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve in South Africa. It’s hard to comprehend such cruelty.

What funds are needed for?

We urgently need your help to fund our Operation Stop Poaching Now appeal, being held in conjunction with our partner, the International Rhino Foundation. Funds from the appeal will help provide equipment and training to the field rangers who risk their lives and work tirelessly in remote and dangerous conditions to safeguard rhino populations from poachers.

Thank you to everyone who has already supported our appeal for your generous donations and for helping to spread the word. We couldn’t do any of this important work without your support.

Recent news stories

Earlier this month, two Vietnamese nationals were arrested by South African authorities at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, for attempting to smuggle rhino horn and elephant ivory out of the country. While passing through airport security, the perpetrators were found in possession of two rhino horns, five elephant tusks, 20 ivory chopsticks, 31 ivory bangles, 18 ivory blocks and three ivory earrings. The Vietnamese pair were arrested and have been charged with illegal possession of elephant ivory and rhino horn under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA).

This recent arrest closely follows the conviction of two other Vietnamese nationals, who were sentenced to 12 years and 8 years for smuggling 20 rhino horns through the same airport. These lengthy jail sentences are sending an important warning that the smuggling of rhino horn is a serious offence and those convicted face severe punishment.

Lowveld Rhino Trust – Bebrave, the orphan victim of poaching

Bebrave is a young rhino orphan, who was only one year old when his mother and older sister were shot and killed by poachers in 2011. Bebrave was found dehydrated and distressed, anxiously trying to protect his dead mother from a pack of lions. The Lowveld Rhino Trust quickly deployed a rhino team to rescue the young calf, which was successfully spotted and captured. Bebrave was treated by veterinarians, Dr Chap Masterson (Lowveld Rhino Trust) and Dr Chris Foggin (Wildlife Veterinary Unit) with antibiotics and multivitamins to help him recover from scratches inflicted by the lion pride.

Bebrave was taken to a special rhino-calf-holding facility and has been cared for by the Leatham family, who have previously looked after rhino orphans. Bebrave is doing well and has been feeding on 11 litres a day of special milk formula along with fresh browse, lucerne and game cubes, funded by the Lowveld Rhino Trust. Bebrave has also become inseparable friends with an orphaned eland.

The Southern white rhino – a past success story

With most news reports focused on poaching incidents and rhino deaths, it is often hard to imagine a bright future for wildlife populations. However conservation is full of success stories, none more so than the history of the Southern white rhino. At present, the Southern white rhino is the most abundant rhino in the world; this was not always the case. It was one of the first rhino species to be at the brink of extinction, and thought to be extinct at the end of the 19th century. However, a few individuals (50-100) survived in the iMfolozi River valley in Natal and became subject of intense conservation efforts at the beginning of the 20th century.

Thanks to the co-operation of conservationists, researchers and general public (particularly in South African National Parks and sanctuaries) Southern white rhinos have recovered to 20,100 individuals today.

We remain optimistic that the same recovery is possible for other rhino species. With your help, we can continue to fund conservation efforts in the field and put a halt to the current rhino poaching crisis.

Post published in: Africa News

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