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THE HORNED AND THE HORNY: What You Don’t Know about Rhino Poaching in South Africa (Pt.1)

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THE HORNED AND THE HORNY: What You Don’t Know about Rhino Poaching in South Africa (Pt.1)

The Impact of the Illicit Asian Rhino-horn Trade on the African Rhino:

There is nothing quite like beholding an African sky. Dawn possesses an astute sense of calm amid a deafening silence across the savannah, as a fiery cocktail of lemon and tangerine adorns the skies with all the fertility of a new day on the plains. At midday, perfect white clouds intersperse a sapphire firmament, reflecting a wild tranquillity unique to Africa. With nightfall, the jet-black heavens are decorated with billions of diamonds sparkling from light-years away and a brilliant silver medallion hanging within our grasp, but just out of reach. These meteorological phenomena, however, lack the charm of an African sunset.

As the day draws to an end, both sky and landscape are engulfed in magnificent flame as the savannah comes alive. On the evening of the 3rd October, in front of a backdrop of the setting blood-orange sun, two rhinos were found in KwaZulu-Natal’s Weenen Game Reserve, running frantically; bleeding from the mutilated stubs that once supported their kingly horns. Terrified, confused and left to die, these brave animals battled over blood-spattered ground and beneath blood-strewn skies for their survival; stuck in the midst of their own moonlight sonata.

Tragically, these two rhinos are far from alone in their struggle for survival in a world committed to procreative destruction. According to Save the Rhino, “there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia” at the beginning of the 20th century, but due to hunting and poaching, this number dramatically “fell to 70,000 by 1970, and further to just 29,000 in the wild today”. This worrying information is compounded by Dr Joseph Okori; head of WWF’s African Rhino Programme, who states that “the African rhino is under serious threat from poachers who have intensified their search of rhino for their horns since 2007, driven by growing market demands in Asia”. Further statistics provided by WESSA validate Dr Okori’s claim, as in 2007, 13 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa, which is home to the world’s largest population of these majestic animals. This number rose significantly to 83 in 2008, and has been steadily on the rise ever since, jumping to 333 in 2010, 448 in 2011 and a staggering 668 in 2012. This year, however, has been the worst to date. In a telephonic interview with Musa Mntambo of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, I was sadly informed that the current number of rhinos killed in 2013 is 704, while the total number of poachers arrested this year so far stands at 167.

Will-Fowlds

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