At least 159 Rhino have been killed in South Africa in the first three months of the year and the trend is set to continue as the price for a kilogram of rhino horn is now more than the price of gold per kilogram.
449 Rhino were killed in South Africa during 2011 and the country is now regarded as the most vunerable in terms of protecting their Rhino population.
The African Wildlife Foundation held a summit in Kenya last week to discuss plans to protect Rhino on the continent. Prices for a kilogram of rhino horn have risen to an all time high of as much as USD 50 000, and with so many Rhino killed last year in South Africa alone, the country is now a hotbed for organizied commercial scale poaching.
Helen Gichohi, President of AWF, said “Wildlife authorities, private land rhino reserve owners, conservation organizations, and others have made valiant efforts to halt the rhino poaching crisis, but these disparate actions have sadly been no match for this epidemic that is plaguing Africa”.
Doubts over the effectiveness of dehorning as a sole measure to protect the species were also raised as Rhinos had been killed even when dehorned, probably out of frustration by the poachers over being defied.
It was also revealed that arrests of poachers led to the discovery of ever more sophisticated equipment being used by them, like night vision goggles, infrared sensors, state of the art communications equipment using encoded frequencies similar to military issues and the use of high powered rifles including silencers, pointing to a well organized network of buyers ready to facilitate such methods.
It was agreed to tackle the problem along several fronts, namely extending and expanding support for surveillance and anti poaching activities by the national wildlife management bodies, demands for the strengthening of law enforcement including lobbying national parliaments to pass amendments to existing laws increasing financial penalties and prison terms and to engage with governments in the main consumer markets of rhino horn and ivory for that matter to play their part in stemming the tide.
South Africans need to insist our legislation will make provision for lengthy prison sentences for Rhino poaching as well as using our military to fight back against poachers wherever they might be operating. Anything less will not be good enough!