Monday, November 7, 2011

The Year of the Rhino

After a report from early this year revealed that 2010 proved to be a record-breaking year for rhino poaching across the globe, the endangerment of this highly coveted species is only worsening. During the first 10 months of 2011 alone, more rhinos have been killed this year than any other year ever on record. They are hunted in a variety of areas, ranging from Southeast Asia to South Africa, but some areas have been ravaged to the point that rhinos are completely extinct there, and such is now the case in Vietnam.

The high demand for all species of rhinos is mostly fueled by the ever-increasing value of their horns, which is sold on the black market and predominantly used for traditional medicines and for ornamental use in high-end household products in China. Ounce for ounce, rhino horn is now more valuable than gold, and this trend has led illegal poachers to take such drastic measures as importing expensive silenced weapons and assaulting conservation officers in order obtain the horns more efficiently. Along with being very valuable, many populations of rhinos exist in areas of poor governance like Zimbabwe, where the country cannot even manage to protect their citizens, let alone their wildlife.

Recent conservation efforts such as the airlifting of a newly established black rhino population by helicopter to new breeding grounds and installing GPS chips in their horns are slowly attempting to reverse the effects of illegal poaching worldwide. The South African government in particular has taken this epidemic very seriously, even going so far as to shoot and kill five suspected poachers on-site at Kruger National Park (which currently houses one of the largest rhino populations left in the world). But as illegal poaching of the rhino reaches a 2000% increase in 3 years (341 individuals in this year alone), one can’t help but wonder: do we as conservationists even stand a chance? Or are our efforts too little too late? What are your opinions on the subject?


- Scott Pritchett


Tiffany Takade said...

They just announced the extinction of the Western Black Rhino. :(

Tanda Schmidt said...

The efforts might be a little too late... how could we have predicted such an increase in poaching? Though, with the economy the way it is... Regardless of how late we might be, the attempt to sustain a population of rhinos that are highly protected sounds like a good start. And poaching poachers.......(jk, sort of). Hopefully we're not too late for the effects of small populations to send the species down the extinction vortex.