Rhinoceros are most well known for their horns. Unfortunately, these horns are exactly what have been causing them the biggest problem. Poachers are rhino’s greatest predator and they kill rhinos strictly for their horns. They sell the horns on the black market, which are then used as ornaments or traditional medicine. Recently, poachers have started gouging out rhinos’ eyes to use for medicine as well. Rhino horns have become so popular that thieves have begun stealing antique rhino horns from European museums.
Turns out that you don’t even need to be a poacher or a thief to kill rhinos. Dawie Groenewald was arrested for dealing rhino horns and a mass grave of 20 rhinos was found on his property, but he has been released and is back in business. Groenewald is a game farmer and has recently been issued a number of permits to legally hunt and kill rhinos. The very people who should be working to protect animals are working against them. Groenewald hunted rhinos along with many others including veterinarians. In 2008, a diplomat from the Vietnamese embassy in South Africa was filmed as she received rhino horns right in front of the embassy building.
The fact that people use rhinos’ horns for medicine is bizarre considering their horns are made of keratin, which is the same protein that our fingernails and hair are made of. A Chinese remedy includes using rhino horn powder as a beauty treatment. Although there is a high demand for rhino horns, they have no scientifically proven healing properties. Concerning the benefit of rhino horns as a medication, ecologist Raj Amin of the Zoological Society of London has said that “you’d do just as well chewing on your fingernails.”
According to the African Wildlife Foundation, “since 1970, the world rhino population has declined by 90 percent, with five species remaining in the world today, all of which are endangered.” An article in the Huffington Post states, “at last count there were 4,840 black rhinos and 20,150 white rhinos, an improvement from 2007, when there were 4,240 black rhinos and 17,500 white rhinos… Southern white rhinos almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century, plunging down to only 20 at one point. Decades of conservation efforts gradually brought them back to life.” The rhino population was on an upward climb and almost out of endangerment until about 2009 and has been going down ever since with 333 rhinos killed in South Africa last year. So far, already 193 rhinos have been killed this year. This is despite an international ban by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITIES) that came into effect in 1993. Rhinos used to roam in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but now only a few can be found, mostly in national parks and reserves, in the latter two continents.
Conservationists have been forced to poison, damage, or completely eliminate horns from rhinos to keep them safe from poachers, but even this drastic step doesn’t always protect them. Known as the “friendliest rhino in Africa”, Max had been part of BBC’s Last Chance to See program. A few weeks ago, even though he had his horns removed by conservationists, he was shot 17 times and killed by poachers who hacked off the remaining stumps. Conservationist Mark Carwardine, the program’s presenter, stated that “no rhino is safe.”
Often times the rhinos that are killed are mothers with their calves. Baby rhinos don’t have horns and therefore are useless to poachers. They are forced to watch as their mothers are killed and/or bleed to death. As orphans, they are lucky if they are found by caring humans, but may live out a life in fear that is forever changed.
Poachers have become much more skilled in their techniques throughout the past few years. Change.org states that “poachers have become increasingly high-tech, sporting AK-47 assault rifles, bolt-action rifles, helicopters, and night-vision goggles; the animals don’t have a chance. These heavily armed professionals are perfectly willing to open fire on anyone who gets in their way.” Spokeswoman for South African National Parks Wanda Mkutshulwa said “we are dealing with very focused criminals. Police need to help game reserves because they are not at all equipped to handle crime on such an organised level.” Poachers have even begun to leave warning notes in the sand for those protecting the rhinos.
Finally, the necessary steps that are needed to protect these animals are coming into effect. In March of this year, Kruger National Park, which saw the 333 rhino deaths last year, recruited the South African National Defence Force to protect against poachers. Brigadier General Koos Liebenberg said that there were “40 rhino poaching cases in March, which dropped to 30 in April, 15 in May and two in June. No rhinos have been poached in the Kruger National Park so far [in July].”
The truth of the matter, as with all similar cases, is that pressure needs to be placed on governments and police to stop and punish those who are the driving force of this cruel business. The ones with the money who are paying for the rhino horns and can easily shuffle out any number of poachers to get what they selfishly desire. If there were no demand, there would be no poachers.
You can help by signing these two petitions below:
- Stop legal hunting of rhinos and increase sentences of rhino poachers in South Africa.
- Rhinoceros in South Africa need your help before their extinction.
In addition, you can also do the following:
- Never purchase rhino horn products! Inform anyone you know who ever has or has thought of buying such products to never support the killing of animals for jewelry, souvenirs, decorations, etc.
- Adopt a rhino
- Support organizations and sanctuaries who are dedicated to helping rhinos survive. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) allows you to donate specifically towards rhino conservation by supplying anti-poaching equipment and support for rangers across Africa
- The internet makes sharing knowledge as easy as clicking a button. Please like, tweet, and share this article in any way you can. The more people that know, the better, and the better chance rhinos have of survival.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
Image Source: Save The Rhino