Rhino poaching in... South Africa
As reported in the Telegraph last weekend, rhino poaching across Africa is at its highest level since the ivory trades ban was introduced in 1990. It has been brought to the attention of the media because a recent case was at the Lewa conservancy in Kenya, where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton. Tusk Trust, whose patron is Prince William, is a charity aiming to stop the decline in Africa’s natural heritage by finding ways to combine the interests of people and wildlife. Last night’s royal premiere of African Cats raised funds for Tusk Trust, further heightening the awareness of the plight of Africa’s threatened animals.
In South Africa, over 180 rhinos have already been poached this year and a record 448 carcasses were found in 2011. Ivory and horn are used in the Far East, in particular in China as a traditional medicine. Poachers are motivated by money. The value of the rhino horn on the black market now exceeds that of gold with the average horn being worth up to half a million dollars. Certainly a lucrative business. Even museums in the UK are adding extra security at exhibitions, and in some such as the Natural History Museum, the horn has been removed from displays as there have been cases reported of the horn being stolen.Game reserves are doing their best to prevent, or at least limit the possibilities of poaching. A conservation success story in its own right, Kwandwe Game Reserve is taking all measures possible to ensure the protection and monitoring of its rhino population, notably of the highly endangered black rhino, since its successful introduction to the reserve in 2001. The reserve spends a huge amount on notching and tagging their black and white rhino (for their own security exact numbers are never given out) and provides guests the opportunity to participate in the programme too. Offering first hand insight into the growing issues of rhino poaching guests are also taken through the necessary – and recently stepped up – monitoring and reaction measures needed to keep these diminishing populations from being targeted by rhino horn poachers.
The programme provides full briefings and explains the darting proceedings before heading out to locate the rhino from the ground whilst the vet flies overhead in a helicopter. Once the rhino is sedated, guests join the team in administering medication and taking DNA samples for the national database. Crucial to the conservation of the rhino, their horn is micro-chipped and the ear tagged for future identification. To be part of this essential conservation task is as thrilling as it is rewarding. Once it has been completed, guests then return to the lodge in the helicopter, providing magnificent views of the 22,000 hectare reserve from above.
Conservation of these animals, through tagging them to track them should the worst happen, is the key to their survival. But until demand from the Far East reduces, and the black market prices come down, the money on offer is always going to tempt local poachers into the illegal trade.