The figure for the number of rhinos that have been poached during 2017 have just been released, and following all of the increased awareness, education and knowledge, those figures should have decreased compared with previous years’, right?
Well, they have in fact decreased…by 26. There were 26 less rhinos slaughtered for their keratin horns in 2017 compared to the previous year, and although this may sound positive at first, there were still 1,028 rhinos illegally slaughtered in South Africa. This is in comparison to a decade prior, when just 13 rhinos were killed in 2007.
Jimmiel Mandima, from the Nairobi-based African Wildlife Foundation, told Nat Geo, “While this may look like progress on paper, it’s overshadowed by the fact that rhino populations are still in critical danger. A small drop in yearly poaching statistics doesn’t tip the scales against the imminent threat of extinction.”
Although these figures are only from one African country, it is important to note that South Africa is home to around 80% of the entire population of the world’s 29,000 rhinos. Despite the latest figures showing us that rhino killings have decreased, the small reduction is showing conservationists that these losses are not sustainable to save the species.
The unlawful killings of rhino is due to the demand for their horn in Asia, particularly in Vietnam, where there is an unproven belief that the horn has medicinal value. In fact, rhino horn is made of keratin, which is the same substance that makes up our own nails and hair. In addition to this, rhino horn is increasingly being carved into artwork and used as a status symbol is Asia.
The rhino poaching crisis in South Africa is said to be made up of corruption, as well as little coordination in law enforcement groups – resulting in 21 government officials being arrested for poaching-related crimes in 2017. Richard Thomas, a spokesman for TRAFFIC – the wildlife trade monitoring organisation – said, “Clearly poachers will go for the easiest targets, and if South Africa’s main crime fighting institutions are failing to coordinate their efforts to prevent poaching effectively, then the country’s rhinos will inevitably be targeted.”
I am Jess Murray, wildlife conservationist, photographer and writer. Follow my Facebook page and Instagram account to be part of the journey. I like to document the natural world and create awareness through my writing so that your future can be sustainable and positive.
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