Poachers Kill Last Female Rhino In SA Reserve

800px Waterberg Nashorn2I wrote about this over at Gadling this morning, and thought it was worth mentioning here as well. According to this story from the Guardian, poachers have killed the last female white rhino in a popular South African game preserve in order to harvest her horn. The brutal act also orphaned her calf and brought the death toll to 136 rhinos at the hands of poachers so far this year.

The incident occurred last week in the Krugersdorp game reserve, not far from Johannesburg. Rangers believe that the poachers flew into the park in a helicopter and shot the rhino with a tranquilizer from the air. They then land, and use a chainsaw to cut off the horn. They’re generally back in the air before they even shut the rotors down, and the animals are left behind. Most end up bleeding to death or overdose on the drugs that knock them out. 

The horns are then smuggled out of the country and sold on the black market in Asia, where they are prized for their alleged medicinal purposes. Made almost entirely out of keratin fibers, which are thin and resemble hair. The substance is the main ingredient of a number of traditional medicines throughout Asia, and the booming economy there has caused a spike in demand. 

South Africa has ramped up its enforcement of these crimes in recent years, and they are now generally handled by the “organized crime” division of the police force. Sentences have also gotten stricter and longer, and criminals are being pursued more aggressively in the past. Prior to 2005, the country averaged less than 36 rhino deaths per year by poachers. Last year that number was 129, and we’re on track for a record number of kills this year.

I found this to be an incredibly sad story. Poaching is a horrible crime and when you consider that only an estimated 18,000 rhinos still live in all of Africa, you begin to see the magnitude of what is going on there. I suspect that this will continue as long as their is a demand or until there are no rhinos left in the wild. 

Kraig Becker

6 thoughts on “Poachers Kill Last Female Rhino In SA Reserve”

  1. That's really sad news Kraig. I'd have a certain amount of empathy for the killers if they were tribesmen hunting for food to feed families in dire straits but this is all about big money – helicopters? Someone must be funding these people big time and people in some authorities must know. The Asian market for these 'delicacies' will only be stopped by their relevant governments. I did read that China had banned the eating of dogs maybe somewhere on the horizon there is hope for all animals especially the endangered ones like the Rhino.

  2. Pretty much exactly how I feel Jo. I respect that culturally the keratin in the horn is of significance, but it is sad that they are slaughtering an already endangered species to get it.

    This is going to be a tough one to stop I fear.

  3. Do we see a trend with these Asian countries (I realize that other regions in the world play their own roles in the demise of other animals…like big sport fishing, etc…)…..? Shark fin soup, tiger penis', rhino horns, whaling, etc….

    It is sad that magnificent beasts have to perish to culture some need for voodoo medicinal endeavors.

  4. Yes, Kraig. Very sad. Fortunately publicity around these poaching tragedies has been really good locally and four (or five) poachers were caught a couple of days ago. The debate continues around why the poachers are doing it as they don't seem to make much from it – but, I guess, some money is better for them than no money. The demand from the Asian market is there so until this stops, the killing will continue.
    I've grown up with visuals of elephant (tusks) and rhino (horn) poaching in South Africa and neighbouring countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mocambique. It is disgusting! And it is just horrific that rhino poaching numbers are just so high. Awful.
    Lisa – Jo'burg, South Africa

  5. Lisa: I read about the 4 or 5 poachers being caught recently as well, and SA is doing good things to try to put an end to it. I hope those efforts meet with success.

    I'm sure this hits home even more for you than it does the rest of us. Sad story though.

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