The rhinoceros was an animal that could be found in abundance throughout Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Even in the early 20th century, it was estimated that there were at least 500k rhinos that were living out in the wild. Thanks to human encroachment on the rhino’s habitat and poaching efforts to harvest the horns of this iconic animal, however, the outlook for this majestic creature doesn’t look very bright.
3 out of the 5 remaining rhino species in the wild today are listed as being critically endangered.
Rhino Poaching Facts
The time to act has already come and gone. The Black Rhinoceros was declared to be extinct in 2011 and the cause was specifically listed as poaching. Part of the problem is the fact that nearly 3 out of every 4 wild rhinos lives in one place: South Africa. With deaths overtaking births until just 2018, some estimates show that all rhinos could be completely extinct from the wild. That means the time to stop poaching is now.
- In 2000, only 6 rhino poaching events were recorded in South Africa. In 2013, there were over 1,000 rhino poaching events recorded.
- The number of arrests for rhino poaching are also increasing in South Africa, nearly doubling from 2010-2013.
- Poaching for rhino horn has increased dramatically, especially in Thailand, not because it is part of traditional medicines, but because having one is seen as a status symbol.
- As of 2012, there were 5,055 Black Rhinoceros and 20,405 White Rhinoceros in Africa.
In looking at these statistics, it brings to mind one of the instructions that God gave to mankind in the book of Genesis – to have dominion over the planet and its creatures. Many people see dominion has having a total domination and to be able to use everything for selfish reasons. A true form of dominion, however, is to have compassion for majestic creatures like the rhino and to give them every opportunity possible to survive and thrive. Until we can begin as a people to do this consistently and eliminate the profitability and social advantages that rhino horns can provide, this animal will stay on the fast track to extinction.
Why Is Rhino Horn So Coveted?
- Although the structure of the rhino horn is similar to what you’d find in the hoof of a horse, it contains a complex series of amino acids that have been shown to be beneficial to human health.
- In ancient Chinese texts, the rhino horn was used to treat hallucinations, snakebites, and other forms of poisoning. Devil possession was also amongst the treatment options.
- Scientific research shows that although there are health benefits to using rhino horn products, there are zero medical benefits that can be obtained from it.
- There is a long-standing tradition that rhino horn is also a powerful aphrodisiac and that it can increase sexual virility. Although there is no evidence of this, millions are still believe in the hype and consume powdered or shaved rhino horn.
- The trade of rhino horn is banned through an international agreement, but calls are especially strong in South Africa to legalize the practice.
- Poaching is difficult to stop because poachers are required to carry heavy guns in order to bring down these animals and that makes law enforcement needs difficult.
- One of the most common places for rhino poaching to occur is in a protected national park.
The desire to want to protect rhinos is there. Even in South Africa, where calls to legalize poaching are underway, there is a majority desire to protect this iconic animal. The only problem is that poachers have more resources than law enforcement personnel and this is creating a disadvantage for the rhino. With Vietnamese organized crime getting involved and supply poachers with the goods they need for effective poaching, law enforcement personnel are becoming outgunned, outspent, and out-thought. That’s why more than 600 rhinos were poached from Kruger National Park in 2013. A third of the total arrests for poaching occur there as well, but that is just a small dent in this massive problem.
How Can Rhino Poaching Be Stopped?
- The #1 way that rhino poaching can be stopped is to raise awareness about the problem so that it is no longer a social advantage to own a rhino horn or consume one.
- In 2014, there was not a single arrest made in the supply chain of rhinoceros products. All 198 arrests that had been tracked as of August 2014 were of poachers only. No receivers, couriers, buyers, or exporters had been arrested.
- The total number of rhino deaths attributed to poaching in just the last 4 years is over 3,000 total animals.
- There are more than 2 rhino deaths per arrest that is made, however, which means rhino deaths still outpace rhino births.
- A growing threat to rhinos is poaching efforts that occur on private lands. Although poaching has increased in protected areas, it has decreased on provincial lands while it has increased on private farms.
- Outside of South Africa, poaching is highly problematic in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Mozambique as well. Outside of these 4 countries, no other nation recorded more than 5 poached animals since 2006.
- It is believed that there are less than 25,000 rhinos in the wild today. Although the poaching stats have been increasing and the populations have been decreasing once again, the population is still 3x greater than in 1993.
There have been many successes against rhino poaching, but those successes are starting to fade away. Populations are still up compared to 1993, but there were barely 7,000 animals in the wild in that year. If we are going to take care of our planet, then we must take care of these majestic creatures as well. If we do not, then the entire chain of life in these African countries could be completely disrupted and that could create a number of future problems for which no one is prepared to combat right now.