The surge in rhino poaching could lead to the prehistoric animal’s demise. Conservative estimates show that as many as a thousand rhino could be poached this year, as the demand in Asia accelerates.
Concern is growing that the country’s rhino could go into negative population in which deaths outweigh births.
The rhino is one of the country’s big five. South Africa is home to the world’s largest rhino population, but incessant poaching erodes these numbers.
Three years ago the figure of rhino poaching stood at a mere 33. It increased to a staggering 668 last year. The unofficial number for this year is near 250.
On Tuesday another five were poached in the Kruger National Park.
Strategic protection of threatened species’ Peter Milton says, “What’s fuelling a lot of the spike is that the syndicates are saying: ‘hold on, worldwide people are starting to get their act together on this problem – let’s just get as many rhino horn into stockpile as possible’.”
The World Wildlife Fund is conducting research in Vietnam into the use of rhino horn powder. WWF-SA’s Jo Shaw says, “Most of the horn seem to be going to Vietnam – a new demand, a new market, new people using the horn for new uses. We are concerned about a seeming increase involvement of people from Mozambique in the illegal trade of rhino horn and killing of rhino.”
There’s a raft of anti-poaching strategies, from patrolling soldiers and stiff jail terms to financial rewards for information, but still poachers are prepared to risk the lives for the generous bounty the rhino horn brings them.