Killers wiping out SA's rhinos

By admin
23 July 2010

Victor is 14 months old, Velo is a year old. Both are young rhinos resident at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve near Krugersdorp. A third, nine-month-old Vuma, has been without his mother for only a week. All three were orphaned by poachers who killed their mothers for their horns.

Rhino poaching in SA has risen alarmingly: 13 in 2007, 83 in 2008, 122 last year and 126 so far this year (Vuma’s mother was the most recent victim). If it continues at this rate there’s little hope for the remaining population of about 16 000 white rhinos and 1 500 black rhinos in SA, home to more than 90 per cent of Africa’s rhinos.

Ed Hern, owner of the reserve, believes there’s a chilling reason for the escalation: poachers are focusing on SA, having wiped out most of the rhinos in neighbouring countries.

They’re becoming shrewder too and are better equipped now, says Reynold Thakuli, general manager of SA National Parks. They use heavy-calibre weapons, veterinary equipment such as anaesthetic darts and chainsaws. And they no longer poach only in daylight.

‘‘They don’t travel on foot any more either – they use helicopters to track down the rhinos,’’ Hern says. ‘‘I get suspicious whenever I hear a helicopter.’’

Rhino horn from Southern Africa is exported mainly to Vietnam and China and also finds its way to South Korea and Malaysia. In November 2007 a Vietnamese diplomat based in South Africa was withdrawn after being caught in possession of rhino horn.

Not all rhino horn is sold as medicine. Most of it from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is smuggled to Yemen and used to decorate the traditional daggers presented to boys when they reach manhood.

Hern is threatening to inject cyanide into his rhinos’ horns ‘‘so people who ingest them will die’’.

Read the full article in the YOU of 29 July 2010

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