"Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it”

Rhino Poaching – Tipping Point.

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Rhinoceros poaching began to kick off at the very start of the millennium, back in 2002 we lost a total of around twenty five Rhinoceros. Never did we fathom Rhino poaching would be the ultimate new trend for Traditional Chinese Medicine or used as a status symbol to show wealth and prosperity.

Poaching statistics fluctuated between the years of 2003-2007 which saw a total of eighty two Rhinoceros, gunned down or poisoned with entorphine, faces hacked off and left for dead. The fluctuation between 2003-2007 we believe is due to new trends in the way Rhino horn is processed and used, least forgetting between this year there was much civil tension and wars ongoing of which the illegal wildlife trade funds astronomically.

International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa has already provided evidence to Interpol and Department of Environmental Affairs of Rhino and ivory parts workshops thriving in northern Africa where civil wars have been the spot light for media tension. Trade is not necessarily an issue here in Egypt, Algeria, Mali (north) and Tunisia but more a trafficking/pick up route. Money is parted that is then used to fuel terrorism and purchase firearms. This is an Act of Terror that all governments around the world affected by terrorism must now stand up too.

From 2007-2008 a colossal upsurge of Rhino poaching was seen with the Kruger National Park (KNP)  baring yet again the brunt of poaching attacks that has since prompted SANParks and Edna Molewa Environmental Minster head of the Department of Environmental Affairs to order the evacuation of some five hundred Rhinoceros from the Kruger National Park situated next to Kabuk. Kabuk is known as the village that thrives on Rhino horn and is one of many small villages within the Mozambique Transfrontier range. No borders provides easy access for poachers to simply cross into the parks taking out many Rhino.

2008-2010 saw a staggering increase in Rhino horn poaching. From 2008-2010 South Africa lost (not including Rhinos poached over the border) a whopping 500+ Rhinoceros. One would have thought that with such a high security presence, increase in South African National Defense Force and intelligence teams working locally and internationally that poachers would have given up. Unfortunately this is not the case. Millions upon millions of dollars have been donated to various South African organisations and the South African Government yet the poaching continues. International Animal Rescue Foundation’s Chief Environmental Officer Dr Josa Depre quoted in a brief interview yesterday;

“Rhino poaching has reached unprecedented levels, with so much funding being pushed into South Africa to try and stem the flow of poaching one would have believed some improvement would have been seen”.. “The transfrontier fence has still yet to be erected, until this fence is erected poachers from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and north African poachers will continue to walk freely into South Africa slaughtering our mega-fauna”..

“Trans-locating some five hundred Rhino is a positive step in preserving some Kruger Rhino however should not be seen as a simple fix or solution. “All one is doing is moving danger out of Kruger elsewhere that could potentially see people’s lives placed in harms way”..

“Poachers will not stop just because a mere five hundred Rhinoceros have been moved, by moving them one is merely inviting poachers to travel further inland”.. “We have noticed within the past few months that heavily armed poachers are operating and living within Massingir that were not present over several months ago”.. It’s quite likely that by moving these Rhino the opportunistic native Mozambican and Zimbabwean will turn to these heavily armed and well trained military style poachers that could or may place human lives in danger”.. We are all aware that rangers and Anti Poaching Units have been attacked by the modest poachers, what’s to say north African poachers that are special forces trained will kill”… “

“We are now at the tipping point for both Rhino and Elephant, Rhino and Elephant populations have been heavily depleted over the border of Southern Africa so it’s quite evident that we will see in the next five months heavily armed, well trained north African poachers hitting the Kruger hard”. 

Poaching is only the tip of a very large stinking iceberg though. Demand within Asia is still continuing whether it be for a pseudo medicine or used as a status symbol to show wealth. Online sales within Hanoi and Saigon are still continuing despite a complete trade ban. See picture below. International Animal Rescue Foundation’s (OTH) team Operation Trojan Horse monitors trade online of all animal parts banned under the Cites agreement. The trader below known as Vun-habo (login name) has been peddling Rhino horn parts since 2012. One only has to search Vietnamese classified advertisements and you’ll locate hundreds if not thousands of antique sellers and non-antique traders specializing in many medicines from facial creams, head ache cures down to rheumatic fever.

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From 2011 to 2012 we lost just under one thousand Rhinoceros. Figures for 2011 end stood at 448 with 232 arrests. The following year 2012 end we lost a further 668 Rhinoceros which saw a combined arrest rate of some 267 poachers apprehended. For August 2014 poachers have already exceeded both statistical records from 2010-2012 of which we are now looking at staggering 708 Rhinoceros killed. By the end of the year International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa using model data puts the final statistics at a nauseating 1400 Rhinoceros poached. 

Female Rhino cows reach sexual maturity at around 6-7 years old, males at between 10-12 years old. White Rhino have a gestation period of approximately 16 months. Females usually give birth for the first time at the age of 6.5-7 years. The interval between calving is 3-4 years. Pregnant females will leave their crash shortly before the parturition and stay apart for several days afterwards. Calves stand up within one hour, immediately attempting to suckle. Mother and calf become inseparable; the calf usually moves in front of its mother and immediately responds to the mother’s behavior. The calf begins grazing at two months, weaning occurs at around one year of age. The calf stays with mother for around three years.

Female cows cannot produce enough Rhino to keep up with the onslaught of poaching, we are finally at the tipping point which would probably give some inclination as to why Hon Edna Molewa and SANParks have decided to trans-locate some 500+ Rhinoceros, this movement though that has angered Animal Rights Activists has since been delayed. When going to press it was stated that Rhino to be moved where going to hunting lodges however this is not actually factual and no data has been released on where these Rhino will be re-located too. What we can state is and this is based on the very words from the Department of Environmental Affairs that it is possible these Rhino “may” be moved to areas where “sustainable utilization” will be practiced. I.e hunting. This brings us to our next concern. Many African Rhino farmers have stated publicly they hold to many Rhino. So if this is the case then why are these Rhino not re-located to provide monetary funding for sustainable utilization? Or is it the case that to many Rhino have been dehorned and hunters will only wish to hunt a Rhinoceros that hasn’t been disfigured?

Since 2012 reports have emerged that fake Rhino horns have been flooding the market within China and Vietnam. This has led to some concerns that it could well be increasing the poaching more. Please view pictures below.

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Counterfeit Rhino horn trade is big business within Africa and Asia of which poses a significant threat to any proposed legal Rhinoceros horn trade, regardless of what the pro trade lobby has suggested within online forums and meetings with governmental environmental agencies.

Sophisticated syndicated and highly organised gangs are now making very high quality fake horns, allowing unscrupulous hunters to sell the real horns at a huge mark-up to black market dealers for traditional medicine and status symbols. The fake horns are made with top quality resins and look so authentic that they are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing, a report presented July 2012 to members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) says. The report, presented to the convention’s standing committee in Geneva, says Cites officials have been alerted to the increasing involvement of “professional hunters in the illegal Rhino horn trade”. Yet hunters deny having any involvement within the trade whatsoever.

Cites did not specify in which country the fake horns were being made and sold, but details in the report point to the possible involvement of either American or European hunters in the fake horn scam. In 2012, wildlife investigators in the US arrested several American and Vietnamese nationals in a major bust in several cities across the US following the seizure of numerous Rhino horns, some of which were suspected to have originated from legal Rhino hunts in SA and other parts of the continent. Since 2012 there have been countless people apprehend involved in the peddling of counterfeit Rhino horn. The possibility that this “may” be increasing poaching within Africa is all to real.

Concluding;

Rhino poaching has reached record levels in South Africa, having escalated for five years in a row. On current trends, deaths have now pushed the Rhino to tipping point and unless something majorly drastic is not seen we will begin to see localized extinctions occurring within South Africa.

South Africa WAS home to 80 per cent of Africa’s Rhinos, but 1004 animals were killed there last year, compared with 668 in 2012, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs. No more than 36 were killed each year between 1990 and 2007, but poaching has increased exponentially since 2008. Other countries with Rhinos have seen similar increases.

The poaching escalation has sadly brought South Africa’s white Rhino population to a tipping point where deaths are now outnumbering births. It is no longer a fact of if but more when will we see extinctions occur. Cites signatories must now act and enforce sanctions on user nations, demand the transfrontier fence is erected, implement a Rhino hunting moratorium as evidence has shown hunters and the very people paid to preserve our Rhino have also been involved in killing them too.

The trade has mushroomed despite the introduction of tougher anti-poaching measures in South Africa, including more rangers and drone aircraft.

Supply and demand

Conservationists blame soaring demand in China and especially Vietnam, where Rhino horn has become a highly prized status symbol and valued gift, as revealed in a recent TRAFFIC report. South Africa’s tough stance is also being undermined by lax enforcement in neighboring Mozambique, which serves as a conduit for illegal Rhino material to the Far East. In Mozambique, people who steal chickens receive worse penalties than poachers caught with illegal Rhino horn, according to Mike Knight of the African Rhino Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

South Africa and Mozambique must decisively up their game if they hope to stop this blatant robbery of southern Africa’s natural heritage. As well as tougher enforcement, reducing demand is crucial. We must put pressure on the countries that are creating demand, especially Vietnam and China. This year $350,000 was raised for Rhino conservation by auctioning off the right to kill a specific Rhino. It was alleged that if conservation groups hadn’t complained about the auction, it would have raised $1 million. No matter how many Rhino are being killed legally its not going to save them. Many farmers are now under the illusion that by 2016 the next Cites conference will see trade Rhino horn trade legalized. South Africa doesn’t stand a chance so as long as the killing continues coupled with demand and trade in Asia.

We are losing our Rhinoceros. The death toll to date stands at a staggering 700+.

Thank you for reading

Dr Josa Depre.

info@international-animalrescue-foundation.org.uk

Please view the video below and share this article. The video depicts children that are creating awareness of the current Rhino poaching trend. The more children we educate the possibility that future poaching crazes will decrease is quite possible. Education starts here and can have quite an impact.

Notice a typo? Please contact us above and we’ll correct it as soon as possible. 

 

 

 

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