Record year of rhino slayings as Africa's big animals targeted

2015-01-02 20:30
(File, Beeld)

(File, Beeld)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - South Africa lost a record number of rhinos in 2014 as big animals across Africa were relentlessly poached to meet rising demand for horn and ivory in newly affluent Asian countries or to provide meat to fighters in the bush.

From South Sudan, where conservationists say elephants are being slain by both government forces and rebels, to South Africa, where more than three rhinos are poached every day, there is an arc of illegal animal slaughter across the region.

South Africa is the centre of the rhino crisis as it is home to close to 20 000, or over 90%, of the world's population of the animals.

Government figures for 2014 show that by mid-November 1 020 of the animals had been killed for their horns.

That tops the previous record of 1 004 from 2013 and experts say it will probably hit at least 1 200, an almost four-fold increase over 2010, when 333 were killed.

Pelham Jones, chairperson of the Private Rhino Owners Association, told Reuters that his group believed that 1 171 rhinos had been illegally killed in South Africa by mid-December.

"It is a very safe but sad assumption that we will exceed the 1 200 mark in 2014," he said.

There is legal hunting by permit of rhino, elephant and other big game in South Africa. But the numbers refer to illegal killings and trade in rhino horn is prohibited globally.

Rhino horn is coveted in Vietnam and China as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Conservationists say it fetches up to $65 000 a kilo on the street, making it more valuable than gold.

The toll often rises in December, possibly because poaching syndicates want to stock up ahead of the Chinese New Year in February.

Many of the rhino poachers come from neighbouring Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries where villagers are tempted by the promise of quick money.

Poaching centres around Kruger National Park, which borders Mozambique and is a major tourist draw, making the issue a state priority, with the department of environmental affairs saying in November that over 340 arrests had been made so far in 2014 in connection with the scourge.

Rhino horn, which only weighs a few kilos, is relatively easy to smuggle and its price has spawned a web of routes, with 16 members of a syndicate suspected of involvement in the trade arrested late last year in the Czech Republic.

Tipping point

Final estimates for elephant poaching across Africa in 2014 will not come out for some time, but conservationists say the number of the animals being slain for ivory - valued for decorative purposes in China - is likely exceeding the number being born.

This suggests a "tipping point" of population decline is in prospect for Africa's 500 000 elephants.

"2015 will be key, possibly the most significant yet in the battle to save the world's iconic animals”, said Richard Thomas, spokesperson for Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network.

"If the resources now being directed at this fail to put a big dent in the poaching figures, we need to find out what went wrong and why and amend our approach," he told Reuters.

At least 20 000 elephants were poached annually from 2011 to 2013, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a UN-linked agency.

Killing elephants and smuggling ivory from their tusks is a trickier business than rhino poaching and selling horn. Elephants are bigger, warier, and more dangerous, and their tusks can reach lengths of a metre or longer.

A CITES report two years ago noted that for smuggled ivory, "Trade patterns have shifted to Indian Ocean seaports”," and the sheer quantities of cargo moving through Asian ports "makes detection of concealed ivory a severe enforcement challenge”.

There have also been allegations of official complicity. In November, Tanzania denied allegations by a campaign group that Chinese officials smuggled out large amounts of illegal ivory in diplomatic bags during a state visit by President Xi Jinping.

Foreign Minister Bernard Membe acknowledged that Tanzania - where conservationists say 10 000 elephants were killed in 2013 - was among the world's major sources of smuggled ivory, but denied that the Tanzanian and Chinese governments were involved in the internationally banned trade.

In Africa's newest state, South Sudan, the current onset of the dry season may trigger more poaching in a country where the elephant population has fallen from about  80 000 to 2 500 over the past four decades.

The US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) says that eight of the almost 30 elephants it had radio-collared in the country for monitoring purposes were poached last year amid fighting between government forces and rebels.

Aside from poaching for illicit ivory sales, elephants and other animals are also being killed by both sides for their meat, WCS said.

 

Read more on:    mpumalanga  |  rhino poaching  |  poaching

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
28 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.