David Attenborough with a 3 month old baby rhino. (Photo courtesy of the BBC.)
Horrifying news out of South Africa today: as reported in the Guardian, 688 rhinos have been killed in South Africa to date this year. That’s almost three rhinos a day. This new record outnumbers last year’s awful slaughter.
Perhaps most shocking is that just six years ago, ‘only’ 17 rhinos were poached in South Africa. With 18,000 white and 4,000 black rhinos left in South Africa, conservationists are alarmed. With fully three months left to go 2013, the year’s total losses could reach as high as 1,000 rhinos. At that rate, all of South Africa’s rhinos will be gone in a couple of decades.
South Africa is touting tougher enforcement measures and even the use of drone technology to track and catch would be poachers in the act. But it will take more than that to turn around this dire situation.
Demand for rhino horn in Asian countries has spurred the illegal killing. The article indicates that (perhaps surprisingly) young, wealthy, educated Vietnamese buyers are the primary market for rhino horn. (Read this earlier Guardian report for more details.) The newly affluent consider the horn a ‘status symbol,’ so as it becomes rarer, and more expensive, demand will only increase. To stop the vicious cycle the hearts and minds of those buying rhino horn must be changed—and fast.
The stakes are clear. If we do not have an immediate change in strategy–focused on changing the attitudes of buyers–rhinos in the wild are doomed. Do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a world without the rhino?