Rhino Populations Still Being Depleted

Creation Date November 21, 2014 // Posted in: News

Record Number Killed This Year

Seeing a Rhino in it's natural habitat is a breathtaking and moving experience, and if the trends continue, an experience that the next generation will not be lucky enough to have. This article from Business Day Live explains the plight of the Rhinos despite efforts of conservation. 
A RECORD 1,020 rhinos have been poached in SA this year, the government said on Thursday, indicating efforts by authorities to curb the slaughter of the endangered species have fallen short.
The Kruger National Park has been hit the hardest by poachers, with 672 killed inside the park. "To date, a total of 1,020 rhino have been killed for their horn since 1 January 2014," the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement. The poaching crisis has forced the authorities to move a number of rhinos to "safety zones", some in neighbouring countries. Last year, 1,004 beasts were poached in parks across the country. Demand for rhino horn, which is made of keratin that is also found in hair and nails, has skyrocketed in recent years, largely driven by the market in Asia, where the powdered horn is valued for its supposed medicinal properties. A number of initiatives to fight the scourge have been launched, including the deployment of the army along the border with Mozambique, a poaching hotspot. Helicopters are also used to intercept poachers as well as armed ground patrols with sniffer dogs.
"Unfortunately the threat of poaching has continued to escalate while various multifaceted interventions are being implemented by SA," Environmental Affairs the Minister Edna Molewa said. "We are concerned that poaching is part of a multibillion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade. Addressing the scourge is not simple," she said. South African National Parks (SANParks) described the poaching statistics as "horrific" but maintained that they were not "fighting a losing battle". "The figures are horrific," said SANParks spokesman Isaac Phaahla."We believe that they could have been worse if it wasn’t for our current antipoaching interventions," he said. Mr Phaahla said the 344 arrests of suspected poachers since the beginning of the year and occasional convictions were signs of "work in progress" in the fight against the scourge. However, a large number of heavily armed poachers still manage to sidestep rangers each day, shooting the animals with high-calibre hunting rifles, before hacking off the prized horn.
Mr Phaahla said the current relocation of rhinos was one of the key population management efforts in a five-year plan by authorities to curb poaching.
In July, a court sentenced a rhino poacher to a record 77 years in prison, and dozens of people are currently being tried for poaching.
In September, police claimed to have arrested a suspected ringleader of a poaching gang believed to be behind at least 24 rhino killings between 2008 and 2012.
The arrests were followed in November by a haul of 18 rhino horns seized at OR Tambo International Airport on a flight from Mozambique to Vietnam.
The thorny subject of legalising the trade in rhino has also been broached, with the hope that it would help to minimise the demand and save the species.
But the issue has been met with mixed reaction from officials and conservationists, who say it could serve only to increase demand.
There are about 20,000 rhinos in SA, which amount to about 80% of the world population.
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