Surge in rhino killings to supply the Asian traditional medicine market

NEWS AND COMMENT-SOUTH AFRICA: The Times has a shocking report today. It seems that the citizens of Asia want to slaughter all the rhinos in South Africa to feed their ridiculous traditional medicine market. They believe the rhino horn has medicinal qualities when actually it is made up of keratin which is the same stuff that our nails are made of and our hair. There is no science to support the Asian superstition that rhino horn has medicinal qualities. And yet they go on killing rhinos at a frightening pace and it is getting worse.

Rhino SA

Rhino in South Africa. Photo by Casey Allen from Pexels

Here’s the information coming out of South Africa. In the first two weeks of December poachers in organised crime syndicates killed 24 rhinos. 23 rhinos were poached in 36 hours between Tuesday and Thursday last week. 24 rhino carcasses have been found in South Africa since the beginning of December. One rescue organisation has taken in a 12-hour-old calf after its mother had been slaughtered. In a game reserve in the Western Cape, five rhinos were poached in one night. Four of the animals including a pregnant female died. One of them had its face badly hacked requiring urgent veterinary care.

The South African government appears to be impotent. Some blame is placed on the Covid-19 pandemic which has deeply affected tourism which in turn has reduced income and which in turn has reduced the amount of money available to provide protection for the rhinos.

I don’t buy that. If they wanted to protect the rhinos, they could do it. It’s a question of commitment and resources. But sadly, the demand from Asia where rhino horn is used in traditional medicine as mentioned is driving this frightening surge in the poaching of this iconic species.

Kim da Ribeira, the head of the lobby group Outraged South African Citizens against Poaching (Oscap) said that poaching syndicates operate with impunity. She called on the environment minister, Barbara Creecy, to deal with this surge in rhino poaching.

South Africa has the world’s largest rhino population but no doubt there will come a time when it no longer has that population based upon what I read today.

The US State Department imposed visa restrictions on eight Democratic Republic of the Congo citizens involved in trafficking illegal wildlife and wildlife parts as part of their crackdown on global poaching rings.

The speed of the killing and the numbers are frightening. In 2019 the black and white rhino population in South Africa was estimated to be around 5,000-18,000 individuals respectively. Also shockingly, my research indicates that the white rhino population in the early 1900s was below 100. It seems that human simply can’t stop killing them for ridiculous, superstitious and unjustified reasons.

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