Rhino poaching costs SA more than R1.3bn

2015-04-16 13:11

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Johannesburg - South Africa had lost more than R1.3bn to rhino poaching since 2008, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) said on Thursday.

EWT project manager Kirsty Brebner said around 3 800 rhino had been poached in the last seven years. The sale value of a single living rhino was about R350 000.

She was speaking at a conference on poaching held at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Brebner said the money the country had lost to poaching excluded that of funds invested in the security and protection of the endangered species.

Brebner said the EWT had embarked on intensified programmes to protect approximately 25 000 surviving black and white rhino around the country.

Listed in their efforts to curb poaching and punish offenders, Brebner said the EWT had placed three tracker and sniffer dogs in reserves.

The dogs were able to detect horns, ivory, rifles and ammunition in cars.

Awareness campaigns

The conservation group had also given awareness campaigns and training to magistrate's and public prosecutors who handled cases against poachers and horn smugglers.

They also educated border patrol officials, churches and schools on rhino poaching.

Brebner said the official figures on rhino poaching for the first quarter of 2015 were not available as officials had stopped issuing statements on a regular basis.

"I am not sure why this has happened," she said.

Spokesperson for the department of environmental affairs, Albi Modise told News24 that the department had not been issuing statements as regularly as before.

The department compiled reports from figures it received around the country and was a lengthy process, Modise added.

The department was expected to release the latest figures during a media briefing on Friday.

Not the only country

South Africa was not the only country that had poaching challenges.

China had widely used horn to treat several diseases and illnesses.

"In Yemen, the rhino horn was traditionally used to make dagger handles," Brebner said.

Education programs on poaching and the endangered rhino had changed this and other materials were now being used.

Rhino horn had also become "the ultimate symbol of wealth and status" in Yemen.

"The rhino horn has become prized than golden records, watches etc," she said.

An urban legend in Yemen also said a politician was completely healed of cancer by using rhino horn as medication.

"A lot of ailing people are holding onto this phenomenon," she said.

New uses for the rhino horn continued to emerge across the world.

This included the horn being crushed and used as an aphrodisiac enhancing substance.

The drug was also used as a "hangover" remedy.

Loss of life

In South Africa, the killing of rhino horn resulted in loss of life for both rangers and poachers.

Brebner said there was not a single solution to remedy poaching but multiple conservation points needed to be put in place.

"We need to elevate the risk of trade," she said, adding that identifying gaps within the poaching chain was also a necessity.

Communities needed to also work with authorities as they were usually the first to know when poachers infiltrated their areas.

At times, they too were recruited to join in the poaching or provide information on where rhino could be found.

While the extinction of rhino would be a huge blow to the country, Brebner also highlighted that if the rhino had all died out, people would also lose out on their jobs.

Read more on:    endangered wildlife trust  |  johannesburg  |  rhino poaching

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