18 October 2012 marked a sad day in South African history: we eclipsed our 2011 record for rhino poaching, with 455 rhinos massacred thus far in 2012. Ironically, it also marks the day that Vietnam snubbed an anti-poaching agreement with South Africa, as the Mail&Guardian reported.
Vietnam is believed to have outgrown its Chinese neighbour in demand for rhino horn. South Africa has since banned Vietnamese hunters from entering the country.
South Africa is home to 70% of the world’s rhino population (and 90% of Africa’s population), turning it into a slaughterhouse for poachers from around the world. Very poor eyesight makes rhinos easy targets. 333 rhinos were butchered in 2010, 454 in 2011, and over 450 and counting in 2012.
Our National Parks have been turned into butchering grounds. Our museums are being robbed. Our zoos have been targeted next… All in search of the precious horn, which sells for as much as cocaine.
What drives this horrific industry? Money and sex. Each kilogram is estimated at $50 000, promising men worldwide hours of endless passion. Rhinos are not the only animals used to solve such contemporary issues: lion teeth and shark fins have been on the black-market for centuries, with shark fins being ripped off live sharks, which are thrown back into the ocean to drown or be eaten by their counterparts.
Myths associated with rhino horn:
It cures cancer.
It rids you of HIV/ Aids
It frightens away demons.
It helps with impotency and libido
Rhino horn cups are seen as both an art and honour in China. Dubbed as “immortal paradise,” drinking from this chalice is falsely believed to grant you long-life and insatiable libido.
The use of veterinary drugs in rhino poaching has proven that high-skilled vets are also involved. In just seven minutes, the animal will be immobilized and the horn will be axed off (often while still alive) with an axe or chainsaw. The rhino dies from an overdose of tranquilizers, bleeds to death or dies from infection later on.
The hunting industry is also rumoured in being involved in rhino poaching, working together with poaching syndicates in giving them access to guns, permits, aircrafts and vehicles. A maimed rhino will continue to breathe via a cavity in its nasal passage, between his eyes.
Rhinos are extremely precious creatures, in that they have a long gestation period of 16 months and cannot really leave their mothers until the age of three. She will therefore only breed every three-four years, roaming around with her calf; making them easy targets for hunters. A rhino foetus was discovered only days before being due, with its mother slaughtered by poachers in Limpopo, in February 2012. Its four-year old sibling was discovered wandering nearby in complete distress.
There were originally five rhino species worldwide. South Africa’s rhinos are in demand, as it is home to the black rhino (quite rare) and the white rhino (known for its long horn). White rhinos weigh as much as 2.7 metric tons (5,952 pounds) while black rhinos weigh up to 1.35 tons.
The Javan rhino, one of three Asian species, is now rumoured to be extinct in Vietnam after the last one was found dead in October 2011, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The Indian and Sumatran rhinos make up the other Asian species.
The new crisis is that poachers are now targeting already dehorned rhinos, as a substantial amount is still left below the skin.
In April 2012, Prince William was reportedly devastated, after a black rhino was killed in Lewa, the wildlife conservancy where he proposed to Kate Middleton.
He called those involved in poaching “ignorant, selfish and utterly wrong.”
South Africa has tried to combat poaching in various ways, but to little avail. An average of one to three rhinos are still killed daily, ensuring their extinction by 2015. Here are some of the ways the war on poaching has been implemented:
You can do your bit by visiting www.eishrhinos.co.za and purchasing a T-shirt to raise awareness and help support anti-poaching units. These units are constantly bullied, harassed, bribed or threatened for trying to save the rhino. Its main theme of “Save the horn of Africa, save the rhino” is extremely popular.
You can also follow @helpingrhinos on Twitter, to keep up to date with the latest anti-poaching news.
Two rhinos were found mutilated last year. They miraculously survived. See how Thandi and Themba fought for survival at Kariega Game Reserve:
The Price is a feature-length documentary, examining what drives poachers to mutilate and kill. View the 5-minute trailer: http://www.thepricedocumentary.com/
he Rhino Wars, a documentary written, directed and produced by Melinda MacInnes, examines how rhino poaching has spiralled out of control, affecting all five species:
Prince William: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/prince-william/9340923/Duke-of-Cambridge-rhino-poachers-make-me-angry.html
Rhino foetus: http://www.sa-people.com/2012/02/22/rhino-slaughter-in-south-africa-photographs/
Vietnam snubs agreement: http://mg.co.za/article/2012-10-18-vietnam-snubs-sa-on-key-rhino-poaching-agreement