Despite wide media coverage, the levels of rhino poaching in Southern Africa remain at an all time high. 284 rhino have been killed in South Africa this year, more than one a day. At this current rate, it will surpass the 333 killed in 2010. The RHINO is only killed for its horn which is sort after by mainly Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia where it is used for traditional medicinal purposes. It is believed that the demand has spiked in the past three years after claims that rhino horn can cure cancer. Despite a ban on imports in 1982 the other importer of illegal horn is Yemen where the horn is carved into ornate daggers or jambiya, prized as a status symbol among Muslim men. Extensive studies have shown that rhino horn has no real medicinal value. It has long been thought that rhino horn is made up of compact matted hair, but more recent scientific research has confirmed that rhino horn consists largely of keratin, the same protein found in our finger nails and hair. The horn grows approximately 12cm per year and an average horn can weight up to 6kg.
The methods of poaching have become more and more sophisticated over the years and is being led by illegal well organized professiona syndicates. They are very well co-ordinated, using helicopters, microlights, night vision equipment, veterinary tranquilisers and gun silencers. What has become a more common practice in recent years is to dart the rhino with tranquilisers, hack or saw off the horn and leave the animal to die. There have been a number of instances this year where rhino have regained consciousness after the horns having been removed in what one can only imagine to be the most indescribable agony and distress. It is barbaric beyond comprehension to most civilized humans, to inflict such horrific injuries on a magnificent creature and to walk away with seemingly no conscience; this has to STOP.
During a recent awareness tour to New Zealand and Australia in July and August this year, CEO of Environment Africa, Charlene Hewat said in her presentations that the demand for rhino horn has reached such new heights that she wouldn’t be surprised to hear of rhino horn being stolen from museums and universities. Ironically, such incidents did take place during this time with two horns being stolen from the Natural History Museum in Hertfordshire in the UK. What the thieves did not know is that in response to a recent spate of break ins at such institutions across Europe, the Natural History Museum in London and Tring had replaced the horns with synthetic replicas.
On a more positive note, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine (RCHM) in the UK has publicly condemned the continued use of rhino horn. In a statement it says
‘the RCHM strongly condemns the illegal trade in endangered species and has a strict policy prohibiting the use of any type of endangered species by any of our members.’ It is through education and information campaigns that we have to forge ahead to get the message through – Rhino Horn has no Medicinal Value.
Environment Africa, is an African organization committed to Conservation and Communities and has launched a fundraising initative where supporters are encouraged to sponsor a Rhino Acre. This can be done directly on the website through paypal: www.environmentafrica.org.
In ending this week’s article, here is a recent report from a poaching incident in South Africa to bring home the horror being faced on a daily basis in our war on poaching. The second report is one from Zimbabwe.
25th August 2011 – Cape Town, South Africa
A rhino which had its horn removed by poachers at a private Game Reserve in Worcester in the Cape a week ago has died. The rhino, known as ABSA, had been fighting for his life after he was darted and his horn was hacked off with a chainsaw. Another male rhino was killed in the attack on the private game reserve early on Saturday, and a female was darted twice, but was not dehorned. It is believed an anti-poaching patrol had scared off the poachers. Anti-poaching teams had deterred two previous poaching attempts. The reserve believes that the poachers were disturbed as only half of ABSA’s second horn was sawn off before they retreated. The rhino lost a lot of blood and was found lying in a position which would have caused massive muscle and organ damage. ABSA was the first rhino to be reintroduced to the Western Cape since the species was hunted out 250 years ago.
13th April 2011 – Save Conservancy, Lowveld, Zimbabwe
Scouts reported a severely wounded black rhino wandering around Save Conservancy. Rangers were dispatched to locate the rhino and were met with a horrifying and gruesome sight. The rhino, known as Maduma, had been shot several times by poachers and the horns had been hacked out. They left the rhino for dead but the poor animal regained consciousness and was found wandering around, obviously in extreme agony. Vets were called in and as the animal had managed to survive the savage attack they decided to try and save it. They darted it and administered masses of antibiotics in the hope that the horrific wound will heal. Sadly, a month later, ‘It is with a heavy heart that we advise that Maduma the brutally attacked Rhino has been euthanased as his shattered right shoulder could no longer support his weight.’
Rhino Facts for Southern Africa
There are two types of rhino in Southern Africa
Black rhinos are found in Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania. They have a prehensile, hooked lip used for eating leaves and thorns of bushes and trees.
White rhinos are found in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. They are recognized by their flat, wide lip used for grazing.
The white rhino is the largest of the two and can weigh between 2300 to 3600 kg.
A female will have a calf every two and a half to three years.
Rhino horn has no medicinal value.
There are approximately 4200 black rhino and 18,000 white rhino left worldwide.
South Africa holds two thirds of the remaining population.
In Zimbabwe, by the early 90’s the black rhino population went from 2000 to 500
Zimbabwe has only 440 black rhino and 265 white rhino left today.
Support Saving our Rhino in Africa and sponsor a Rhino Acre today.