Imagine a World without Rhinos
If you have never seen a rhino in the wild before, you might never have the chance in the not too distant future. Already on the endangered species list, rhino populations at private game reserves and even large national parks such as Kruger are slowly but surely being destroyed. Shocking statistics released by the South African National Parks (SANParks) this week revealed that over 50 rhino have been killed in 2012. With over 400 rhino poached in 2011, these new statistics have led to much concern that the rate of poaching this year will be even higher – despite the huge number of anti-poaching tactics, increased security and even many arrests that have been made to date.
One attempt to demonstrate the insertion of an anti-poaching device to South Africa’s leading media led to the death of a 22 year old rhino, allegedly caused by a heart condition.
While no-one seems to have any answers on what to do about the continuously worsening issue of rhino poaching, one thing has become clear –the future of our rhino populations is looking extremely bleak if the statistics are anything to go by.
30 Arrests in 2012, And Still No Sign of Poaching Decrease
The latest reports from SANParks also revealed that there have been 30 arrests made in 2012 so far. Five poachers were arrested on the very same day that the statistics were released, in a sting operation that took place in the North West Province. The parastatal’s CEO David Mabunda called the arrests and harsher sentencing were encouraging, but also showed concern that the country is dealing with highly sophisticated crime syndicates.
Kruger National Park has been hit the hardest by the poaching, but smaller game reserves have felt the blow even harder, especially with limited rhino populations to begin with. Aquila Game Reserve came under the spotlight last year in August after the death of their male rhino ABSA. Two other female rhino were also targeted, with one killed outright. The other was the daughter of ABSA, and escaped a cruel fate despite being darted with high-powered tranquiliser.
The Aquila poaching attack had one positive outcome however, and that was the launch of the Saving Private Rhino initiative. Harnessing the power of Facebook, Twitter, SMS and e-mail, Saving Private Rhino went viral in a matter of weeks, spreading across rural and urban areas of South Africa to as far afield as the United States, Australia and Europe. Within two weeks, donations of over R250 000 were raised without any planned campaign.
Since then, many other supporters have joined the cause, with awareness campaigns cropping up across the world in a bid to save our precious rhino.
Why is Rhino Poaching Still Happening Then?
This is the million Rand question, and sadly the answer is simple. Poaching is about profit. While the poachers themselves stand to earn a great deal for each horn they produce (reports put the value of horns at an estimate R3 million per horn), it is the syndicates who have the most to gain. Despite consistent advancements in modern medicine, not to mention awareness of environmental concerns relating to the depletion of wildlife and other natural resources, rhino horn buyers are still making a massive profit of a product that has no proven claim. Rhino horn is said to be a powerful aphrodisiac, a cure for all ailments and a super-powered traditional medicine, and the market continues to fuel the demand for horns. Rhino horn powder is sold for up to $60,000 per kilo.
Even more alarmingly, it is not just uneducated consumers who are fuelling this demand either. Fashion icon and model Elle Macpherson recently made headlines after she told the Times Of London that she eats powdered rhinoceros horn. When the interviewer asked her what rhino horn tastes like, Elle’s response was that it tastes “A little bit like crushed bone and fungus in a capsule,” but that it“does the job.” She later apologised for her statement, saying that she would never willingly endorse products derived from endangered species, and passing off her comments as ‘banter’ with the interviewer.
From fashion models to Chinese medicine devotees, as long as the misconception of the ‘healing powers’ of rhino horn is out there, the demand may show no signs of slowing.
So What Can We Do to Make a Difference?
The rhino crisis in South Africa is still under a great deal of debate. Experts from all over the world have come forward with potential ways to stop poaching – some good, some not so good. As the disastrous anti-poaching demo recently showed, it will take a great deal of time, money and unique tactics to slow poachers down.
Along with the idea of poisoning living rhino horn to ruin any power derived from the horn, other ideas have included removal of rhino horns while they are alive to negate the need to kill these creatures for their horn; drastic security measures; rhino relocations and many other strategies.
But as for what each one of us can do, we don’t need to be conservation experts, vets or environmental specialists to make a difference – however small.
Ways that you can help:
- Make a donation to Saving Private Rhino, Like them on Facebook and tell your friends and family
- Take an anti-poaching course
- Support initiatives such as the Woolworths Rhino Bag
- Sign the anti-poaching petition at Stop Rhino Poaching
- Use your blog, Twitter and Facebook profiles to speak out about rhino poaching
- Be a responsible tourist and support the many excellent game reserves and national parks in South Africa who are working to fight for rhinos
Whatever you do, and however you choose to make a difference, remember this – rhino poaching is something that affects every one of us, and if we want our grandchildren to be able to see these beautiful creatures in the wild, taking no action is the worst action you could take at all.