What is being done to save black rhinos from extiction and where is this happening?

Answer by Rory Young:

Black rhinoceros

In short, not enough.

Since the recent economic rise of China the demand for rhino horn has been equalled by the ability of those who want it to pay huge amounts of money for it. Ther is a mass slaughter of rhinos going on right now.

It happened in the early 90s as well but was stabilised and then the population of black rhinos doubled in size again in Africa. Nearly all of these were in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Unfortunately this time the threat is so much worse.

The largest population of both black and white rhinos is in Kruger National Park. There are under three thousand white rhinos and about three hundred black rhinos. Rhinos are being killed in the Kruger at a much faster rate than they can breed. Most of the animals poached are white rhinos. That is because they are easier to find and kill. The poachers are "picking the lowest fruit". When the white rhinos are gone they will go after the black.

The disaster in Kruger illustrates well the situation everywhere.

Kruger is huge, about seven times the size of Yosemite National Park in the US or roughly the size of Wales.

The park is has an international boundary in the North with Mozambique.

Mozambique endured an horiffic civil war which only ended in 1990. Over one million Mozambicans died and millions of others were displaced. Until it lost its spot a few years ago to Somalia, Mozambique was the poorest country in the world.

1990 there was peace and thousands of highly trained and experienced guerrilla fighters were out of jobs. Most of todays poachers come from the ranks of these men or are trained by them.

As the Chinese economy and the demand for rhino horn have been growing so has Chinese investment in Africa. These Chinese companies bring large workforces and management teams from China. A large Chinese community has sprung up out of the blue and this community provides the traffickers.

The Chinese government has shown no will to tackle the illegal iumport of endangered species and the products are sold openly in shops there.

Rhino horn is used in Chinese medicine, usually as an aphrodesiac. It has been proven scientifically to have absolutely no effect on a a man or woman's libido. Rhino horn is keratin, the same substance that hair and findernails consist of. Clearly Viagra is not good enough to beat centuries of traditional BS.

The poachers are armed with heavy caliber hunting rifles, navigation and night-vision equipment as well as assault rifles and other weaponry for use against park rangers.

Ironically in the 90s the Limpopo Transfrontier Park was set up to link the Kruger National Park in South Africa, The Gorongoza National Park in Mozambique and Gona Re Zhou National park in Zimbabwe.

This was hailed as a major conseervation success and it certainly has been for the wildlife of Gorongoza especially as funds, expertise and animals moved across the border. However it has now turned out to be a disaster for the Kruger rhinos. That's because the border fences were taken down.

In 2002 to much acclaim the fences were dropped. With no border fences the poachers are able to infiltrate into Kruger National Park. When it was proposed that the fences be put back up the South African Government decided that it would be too expensive.

650 park rangers with two donated helicopters and two dontated drones don't stand a chance.

South Africa has a large, well equipped and well trained military. There has only been token use of the South African Air Force and army.

On the other side of the border the Mozambican government is unwilling to patrol the border or commit money, troops or equipment to anti-poaching efforts nor to sign an agreement proposed that would intitiate a joint anti-poaching effort.

That means the work is left to the park rangers. In 2012 they captured 200 poachers and killed another thirty.

If the South African government was truly serious about protecting the rhinos they would have mobilised the military and other resources needed to tackle the problem.

Ban Ki Moon recently warned of the threat to peace and security on Central Africa posed by poaching gangs. Hopefully African governments will react if not the UN Security Council whom he was addressing.

All of the above illustrates some very simple facts.

In order to deal with the poaching itself there has to be a commitment by the governments of Southern and East Africa to tackle it had on with the military and with the law. Kenya has finally raised the penalties there from minor fines to prison sentences. South Africa has started sending in the Air force, Army and police to assist but not in any sort of serious deployment.

China, Vietnam and other Asian states to fight trafficking, criminalize the sale of rhino horn in their countries and then enforce their law.

For any of this to really happen there needs to be a worlwide will to do what needs to be done.

In the meantime the black rhino and the white rhino as well as the Asian species are heading for extinction.

I am heading into Matusadona to track rhinos soon. I cannot believe that my daughter son may not be able to experience the same when they grow up.

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4 thoughts on “What is being done to save black rhinos from extiction and where is this happening?

  1. An excellent, thoughtful article.
    Do you hold out much optimism for the future of rhinos? It seems like an incredibly bleak situation and I rarely hear much good news about it.
    -Nick

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