As of October 30, 2012, a record number of rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year. According to South Africa government officials, a staggering 488 rhinos have been poached in 2012. In 2011, a total of 448 rhinos were poached. With this most recent report, the number of rhinos killed in 2012 has already surpassed that of 2011.
South Africa is home to 20,000 rhinos—90% of Africa’s total population. The sharp rise in poaching, despite increased surveillance, signifies poachers’ advancements in organization and technology. Poachers target rhinos because of their horns, which are believed to contain medicinal value in many Eastern Asian countries.
At this increased poaching rate, numbers could exceed projected totals.
“People around the world are as alarmed as Africans at the prospect of losing one of the world’s greatest species,” said CEO of African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Patrick Bergin. “The African rhino is an international asset, and we are all responsible for its conservation.”
AWF, along with other conservation organizations around the world, is working tirelessly to combat the rhino-poaching crisis. This involves reinforcing on-the-ground surveillance and anti-poaching units, strengthening law enforcement measures and instituting harsher punishments, curbing the demand for rhino horn and illegal trade through public awareness and education, and reaching out to policy makers and government officials.
Most recently AWF, in partnership with WildAid, launched a public awareness campaign, featuring former NBA star Yao Ming, aimed at curbing the demand for rhino horn in China, as well as provided funding to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) for the sniffer dog program. Sniffer dogs are trained to detect illegal animal products like ivory and rhino horn and can help catch poachers.
In a move to bring conservationists together with law- and policy-makers, AWF, together with KWS, will hold a judicial luncheon later this week. This meeting will focus on discussing the successful prosecution of illegal wildlife trafficking, with the goal of instating stricter punishments. Current penalties are too lax to deter poachers from killing rhinos for their valuable horns.
To download the Poaching Rates in South Africa graph, please click here.