Rhino poaching is on the rise and if the trend continues, the species could face extinction. With more than 700 rhinos killed in South Africa at the end of September, poaching has hit a new annual record, according to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). And as the demand for rhinos is rising rapidly, the DEA said this could lead to the end of a heritage.
South Africa is home to almost all of the continent’s rhinos and since 2007, there’s been a 5,000 percent increase in rhino poaching, according to the DEA. Many of the poachers cross the Mozambique border into Kruger National Park in South Africa. From there, the rhino’s horns are sold on the black market in Southeast Asia.
With illegal exports to Vietnam, China and Thailand, the horns are ground into powder and used to “cure” anything from hangovers to cancer, according to the Huffington Post. Since 2010, rhino poaching greatly increased after a story that a Vietnamese politician’s relative was cured of cancer from the horn even though science doesn’t support the claim. Not only is the horn popular within the Vietnam culture, it is also used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat maladies and rheumatism among other diseases.
"There is a small group who have the money for rhino horn. We need to get out scientific evidence to show the people of Vietnam that it doesn't work," Vo Tuan Nhan, vice-chairman of the Vietnamese parliament's science and environment committee, said at a conference in Johannesburg last month, according to The Guardian.
Rhino horns sell for up to $100,000 a kilo, which surpasses the price of gold. And at this hefty price, rhino poachers are attracting more impoverished people to join in the crime syndicate. The DEA, along with other organizations, launched a global campaign to work to stop rhino poaching and educate people on the issue.
StopRhinoPoaching.com is among the other campaigns trying to raise awareness and support the war against rhino poaching. It is a web-based platform that helps support provincial and private reserves in South Africa.
Life-saving mission across borders is protecting South Africa's wildlife through the campaign, Rhinos Without Borders, who has partnered with tourism venture andBeyond, and moved "rhinos from one of their private reserves to Botswana in 2011." The mission continues to this day by checking for rhinos that are strong enough to make the journey by plane to a secret location in Botswana.
While global campaigns are in place to help raise awareness about the situation, the Kruger National Park is focusing their efforts on stopping the poachers who enter the park. Park rangers have turned into soldiers and are fighting their way to protect the park, which is about the size of Israel. The use of “drones to patrol airspace and sending out crack units by helicopter once suspected poachers have been sighted,” are just a couple of ways the rangers are trying to stop poachers, according to The Guardian.
If no “effective measures are taken” to stop the criminal poaching, the South African government confirms the world’s rhino population will be close to extinct come 2026.