South African Poachers Continued Killing Hundreds Of Rhinos During The Past Year
The good news may be that, although the rate of rhinoceros poaching in South Africa did not go down during 2012, it at least seems like it may be leveling off. According to the South African National Parks Authority, by the end of October, 488 rhinos had been killed by poachers. This toll is up by about 10 percent from the 448 South African rhinos illegally killed in 2011. And of course, 2012 is not yet over.
As recently as 2009, “only” 122 South African rhinos were killed by poachers during the year. That number rose to 333 in 2010.
The illegal hunting occurs in spite of vigorous attempts to counter poaching on the part of the South African government. During 2011, the country even sent its military into its largest national park in order to combat the poaching epidemic.
Most of the world’s remaining rhinoceroses live in South Africa, which is home to over 20,000 of the huge animals. The vast majority of South African rhinos are white rhinoceroses, which are the largest of the world’s five rhino species. Although the white rhino population was down to around 100 individuals at the turn of the 20th Century, strong conservation measures sparked a dramatic increase in their population numbers.
However, the upswing in rhino poaching over the past several years seriously jeopardizes that recovery. The increase in illegal hunting is attributed to growing demand for rhino horn in China and other Asian countries such as Vietnam, where it is used to make traditional folk medicines that are taken in hopes of curing an array of illnesses, from fevers to cancer. The fact that rhino-horn remedies are ineffective for curing anything at all has not seemed to dent demand, which has been fueled by rising affluence in China and the other countries. In other words, people are now better able than they used to be to afford such luxuries as rhino-horn potions.
Along with South Africa’s white rhinos, fewer than 5,000 black rhinos continue to exist in South Africa and several other African countries. In addition, India and Nepal are home to a couple of thousand Indian rhinoceroses, while in Indonesia, fewer than 200 Sumatran rhinos and around 60 Javan rhinos cling to a precarious existence. The last Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam was killed by poachers in 2011.
All rhino species are under tremendous pressure from illegal hunting and habitat loss.