Rhino poaching has increased 5,000 percent, say South African officials

Written by: 
Keryna Monson ~ Multimedia Journalist

At the end of September 2013, there have been more than 700 rhinos killed in South Africa, says news24.com. According the South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), this is an all new record that requires immediate and seriously attention.

The Associated Press says “An estimated 4,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, down from 70,000 in the 1960s. Nearly 1,800 are in Namibia, according to the safari club.”

In recent years, the DEA has said rhino poaching has had a 5,000 percent increase. According to the Nation of Change News, “With illegal exports to Vietnam, China and Thailand, the horns are ground into powder and used to ‘cure’ anything from hangovers to cancer. It also says 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.

The current price for rhino horns is “up to $100,000 a kilo, which surpasses the price of gold,” says Nation of Change News.

BYU-Hawaii students said the number of rhinos being killed shocks them.

“I am utterly disgusted that this is really a thing,” said Mary Adams, a freshman from Georgia majoring in finance. “What really gets me is that people are doing this, and there is no real scientific evidence to back any of it up. Don’t they think if it really cured cancer we would all be using it by now?”

"We need people to be ashamed of this. The fact that our rhinos are killed is because there is a market out there. There are people who are coming to steal our heritage," said Fundisile Mketeni, a top biodiversity official at the DEA ministry.

The outrage over the increased poaching is reaching those who aren’t even avid animal lovers. “I think that they should poach the poachers,” said Chris Palmer a pilot from Alaska.

The methods for tracking down and stopping the poachers and transporters of the rhino horns have been improving. The use of “drones to patrol airspace and sending out crack units by helicopter once suspected poachers have been sighted,” reportsThe Guardian, are just a couple of ways the rangers are trying to stop poachers.

The Associated Press says “To help combat poaching, a foundation is setting up a pilot project in the Madikwe Game Reserve, along South Africa's northern border with Botswana, to bring military-style training to the rangers there. The program, financed by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, puts the rangers through an intensive six-week training program, overseen by former Special Task soldiers from around the world. The project will expanded into other areas where rhino poaching has reached a crisis point, says the foundation. Rangers learn combat training, target shooting, building camouflage netting to ambush the poachers and are introduced with new equipment to combat poaching.”