No single solution for rhino poaching

2012-11-26 22:48
There is no single solution for rampant rhino poaching because of the enormous sums of money at stake the WWF has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

There is no single solution for rampant rhino poaching because of the enormous sums of money at stake the WWF has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - There is no single solution for rampant rhino poaching because of the enormous sums of money at stake, an activist organisation has asserted.

"All of us want a single solution to be applied: Let's just make it happen and make it go away - the problem, but it's not as simple as that. We're no longer dealing with a conservation issue; we're now dealing with an issue of crime," Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF) told News24.

He said that the criminal gangs had massive financial muscle that made poaching rhino a lucrative exercise.

"There's so much money sitting in the system and so many poor people that you take one guy - one ground soldier - out of the chain and then there's 150 guys tomorrow ready to step into his boots. For $1 000, they will take risks."

In the early twentieth century, white rhino were hunted almost to extinction with only about 50 animals left in Africa. Through the efforts of the then Natal Parks Board, their number increased to around 20 000.

Relocating rhino

Black rhino, conversely, numbered about 70 000 until about 1970, and that plummeted to 2 500 in 1990. Today, there is an African population of 5 000.

"WWF as an organisation across Africa got very serious about black rhino and in South Africa, we have slowly helped bring back black rhino.

"We now have an African population of black rhino of around 5 000 animals of which we have about 40% - so almost 2 000 in South Africa," said Du Plessis.

The WWF runs a programme of relocating rhino when they reach the carrying capacity in their environment. Rhino do not breed when they reach the limit that the environment will support.

Over 500 rhino have been killed in SA this year, up from 448 in 2011 and 333 in 2010. Du Plessis warned that the number poached would easily pass 600.

"It will go to 600 - and probably over that because December is quite a happy month for poachers. A lot of the guards are off and so on."

Rhino horn is valued at over $65 000 per kilogramme and the demand is mainly driven by consumers in Vietnam where the horn is ground to a powder and used for a number of ailments.

Syndicates


"In Vietnam which hasn't had any tradition for using rhino horn for babbelas or for cancer or for the prevention of these things, have now suddenly surfaced and through viral marketing techniques, people who're sitting on rhino horn stockpiles, have suddenly realised they can make a hell of lot of money out of the predicament of these people," said Du Plessis.

He warned that the gangs operating rhino horn syndicates were hardened criminals and motivated by the financial gains in exploiting people who are ill.

"There's an exploitation that's happening of the predicament in which people find themselves and these guys are ruthless. They're making money and driving demand."


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