Asia’s appetite for rhinoceros horn is fast ensuring that there will be no more rhinos left in the world.
In April poachers shot and killed the last 15 rhinos in Mozambique’s portion of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The poachers are believed to have been working with corrupt park rangers. These were the last rhinos left over from an original population of 300 that roamed the park when it was founded just over 10 years ago. This recent event has prompted South Africa to discuss fencing off their section of the park. The poached rhinos are believed to have crossed into Mozambique from South Africa.
According to conservationists, demand for rhino horn as a traditional medicine and aphrodisiac in Asia, coupled with the low wages of the parks game wardens (the very people entrusted to protect the rhinos), created a perfect storm for the loss of these rare animals. Punishments for poaching in Mozambique are also much more lenient than in neighboring South Africa and security is reportedly far more lax.
From the Telegraph:
The trade in rhino horn has seen the numbers of rhino killed spiral in recent years. Over the border in Kruger, the South African part of the transfrontier park, 180 have been killed so far this year, out of a national total of 249. Last year, 668 rhino were poached in South Africa, a 50 per cent increase over the previous year.
According to a SAPA report, this year’s total for poached rhinos in South Africa stands a bit higher at 273. Despite ramping up efforts to fight poaching, with poachers also increasing their efforts the 2013 death toll is set to surpass last year’s.
Efforts to curb poaching include an ad campaign in Vietnam (a major consumer of illegal rhino horn) portraying rhinos with human hands or feet instead of horns (both human nails and rhino horns are made of keratin). Another novel technique used by private game reserve Sabi Sand is injecting the horns with a pink dye and chemicals that would make a person sick if he or she were to ingest them.
Read more from AP.
The state of Asia’s rhinoceros population offers a glimpse into the future of their African counterparts. Javan rhinos number around 50 and only survive in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. This pitifully small population of Javan rhinos is threatened by poachers and invasive sugar palm trees, which are replacing the plants that the rhinos depend on for grazing. The Ujung Kulon Indonesia Foundation (Yukindo) is fighting to conserve the remaining rhinos in the park by planting suitable food for the rhinos, and weeding out sugar palm trees.
From the Jakarta Post:
Other Yukindo activities include local empowerment programs for people living in the Ujung Kulon National Park by inviting them to contribute in the Javan rhino conservation effort.
So much bloodshed (both rhino and human), money and effort for a product that has absolutely no medical or sexual benefits.