After my recent visit to South Africa, I have become even more aware and concerned of the potential extinction of the magnificent Rhino. Since 2008 poachers have killed at least 5,940 African rhinos……
Rhino poaching is currently at a crisis point. By the end of 2015, the number of African rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1,338 rhinos killed by poachers across Africa in 2015. These statistics are compiled by by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG).
South Africa has by far the largest population of rhinos in the world and is an incredibly important country for rhino conservation. However rhino poaching levels have dramatically escalated over recent years. The below graph shows the exponential increase in poaching from 2007 – 2015.
1,175 rhinos were poached in South Africa during 2015, a slight decrease on the previous year when a record 1,215 rhinos were illegally killed. This is the first time the country has recorded a dip in poaching levels since 2007, when the rate of poaching began to escalate rapidly.
Although it is encouraging to see South Africa’s poaching levels fall slightly, poaching losses are still extremely high. 40 fewer rhinos killed in 2015 than in 2014 is statistically insignificant when you’re talking such large numbers of poaching deaths.
Worryingly, the crisis has spread to neighbouring countries in southern Africa, with Namibia and Zimbabwe experiencing an exponential increase in poaching. During 2015, Namibia lost 80 rhinos to poaching, up from 25 in 2014 and just two in 2012. In Zimbabwe, it is reported that at least 50 rhinos were poached last year, more than double the previous year. For Africa as a whole, the total number of rhinos poached during 2015 was the highest in two decades.
Rhinos were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500 000 in the early twentieth century. However, despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction. The Western black rhino was declared extinct by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 2011, with the primary cause identified as poaching. In fact, all five remaining rhinos species are listed on the IUCN Redlist of threatened species, with three out of five species classified as critically endangered.
The current poaching crisis is attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, mainly Vietnam and China. Vietnam has been identified as the largest user country of rhino horn. Although rhino horn has no scientific medical benefits, consumers are using it to treat a wide range of conditions, from cancer to hangovers, and due to its high value it is now also used as a status symbol by wealthy individuals. The high price fetched for the horn has attracted the involvement of ruthless criminal syndicates who use high-tech equipment to track down and kill the rhinos.
Law enforcement plays a crucial role in deterring poachers, however there is no single answer to combat the current poaching crisis. In Kruger Park, I noticed an increase in the anti-poaching teams leaving the park camps. This is serious business. A variety of strategies are needed to combat poaching including rigorous anti-poaching and monitoring patrols, community conservation and environmental education schemes, captive breeding, translocations and demand reduction projects in Asia. If you want to contribute to these efforts and be a part of saving the worlds remaining rhino please click here to find out more about supporting Save the Rhino International.
Love a Rhino!