South Africa has recently become the scene of serious Rhino poaching. Over the years South African conservationists and game reserves have developed a reputation for conserving threatened species. The white rhino was brought back from the brink of extinction (50 animals at the beginning of the 20th century) and is today flourishing.
Most of the worlds surviving rhinos are found in South Africa. Today these animals are being slaughtered at an alarming rate. In 2008, 89 rhino's were poached, in 2009, 109, in 2010, 333, and so far this year, 173.
Poachers are willing to risk life and limb, and freedom, in their efforts to get rhino horn. Last year 122 poachers were arrested in South Africa, 60 of them in the Kruger National park. So far this year 20 poachers have been killed and 10 injured in clashes with law enforcement agencies, which include the South African National Defence force, which has been called in to patrol the borders of parks such as KNP, South African Police Service, and SANParks, (South African National Parks) rangers.
The Kruger National Park can be seen in the North East corner of this map.
One of the problems conservationists face is the huge size of some of South Africa's game parks. Kruger National Park is larger than some European countries at 7,332 sq miles. Kruger Park also has 220 miles of international border to patrol. One game park in KwaZuluNatal has 96,000 hectares of wilderness area, which means no roads and 14 rangers to patrol it.
At a price of $60,000 dollars a kilogram, more expensive than heroin, poachers are very prepared to take risks. In the past poaching was mainly done by subsistence poachers trying to survive. Today poaching is carried out by well financed and equipped criminal syndicates. Helicopters, night vision equipment and high powered silenced rifles, rhinos are even darted with tranquilizer dart guns and their horns hacked off.
The demand for rhino horn is driven by the believe that it can cure many diseases, from cancer to AIDS, not to mention the old favourite impotence. None of these beliefs has any foundation in scientific fact but that does not curb the demand.
In the 1960's Africa had 100,000 rhino's, today there are very few left 90%, 21,000, of the rhinos are found in SA. As countries such as China and Vietnam become richer so the demand for rhino horn increases.
White rhino. The name white comes from the corruption of the Dutch word weit, meaning wide, referring to it's wide top lip. The white rhino is a grass grazer.
Black rhino and calf. The black rhino has a prehensile top lip and it's a browser, living of leaves.
This is what a white rhino looks like when the poachers are finished with it, one of two poached during the last two weeks in KZN reserves.
The cause of all this wanton slaughter? Money.