Awful year for SA’s rhinos as 2011 poaching shatters record

A record number of rhinos were poached this year in South Africa, as rising demand in Asia for their horns led to increased killings of the threatened species.

At least 443 rhinos have been killed in South Africa in 2011, up from 333 last year, the national park service and conservationists said.

The street value of rhinoceros horns has soared to about $65 000 a kilogram, making it more expensive than gold, platinum and in many cases cocaine, as a belief — with no basis in science — has taken hold in recent years in parts of Asia that ingesting it can cure or prevent cancer.

South Africa, home to more than 20 000 rhinos, was losing about 15 animals a year a decade ago. But poaching increased dramatically from about 2007 as a growing affluent class in places such as Vietnam and Thailand began spending more on rhino horn for traditional medicine.

The number of rhinoceroses dying unnatural deaths in South Africa, either through illegal poaching or legal hunts, has reached a level likely to lead to population decline, according to a study by Richard Emslie, an expert in the field.


Bid to slow the carnage
About half of poaching takes place in Kruger National Park, where soldiers and surveillance aircraft have been deployed in recent months to slow the carnage.

The park has been the focal point of an arms race as gangs of poachers sponsored by international crime syndicates have used high-powered weaponry, night vision goggles and helicopters to hunt the animals, investigators said.

In a separate study, the number of large scale ivory seizures is likely set a record this year, pointing to increased African elephant poaching.

Home to over 90% of the rhinos in Africa, South Africa grants licences for legal hunts, with a growing number of the horns then mounted as trophies, shipped to Asia and sold on the black market, according to police and customs officials.

Trained to kill
Many poachers were trained by Mozambique’s military or police and are now living in squalor in the border region next to Kruger, investigators say.

Their cut of the rhino money is relatively small compared to other players in the international trade but is considered a fortune at home.

Rhino horn has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, where it was ground into a powder and often mixed with hot water to treat a variety of maladies including rheumatism, gout, high fever and even devil possession.

In recent years, it has also taken on a reputation for being an aphrodisiac and cancer cure.

“Nothing is more tragic than to see this totally unnecessary and brutal killing of an animal for its horn, and the horn in turn has zero medicinal value,” said Pelham Jones, a leader of the South Africa Private Rhino Owners Association. — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Jon Herskovitz
Jon Herskovitz has over 313 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Institutions of higher learning should commemorate their casualties

The bust of Matikweni Nkuna at Tshwane University of Technology is an example of how we should honour those who fought for equal access to education

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — that may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast.

Deconstructing South Africa’s construction industry performance

The construction industry has contracted sharply, partly due to Covid, and needs to rebalance its focus if it wants to survive

Editorial: SA will be bankrupted by looters

The chickens have finally come home to roost: if we do not end the looting, it will end us

Zuma vs Ramaphosa? Neither is the leader South Africans deserve

Neither statesman could command sufficient authority in an ANC that remains mired in corruption and infighting and at the behest of big capital

E-payments for the unbanked are booming

The pandemic is providing mobile phone network operators with a unique chance to partner with fintech firms and banks to deliver clever e-commerce solutions to the informal sector in Africa
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday