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Rhino poach­ing toll in South Africa reaches new high

pub­lished 11 Jan­u­ary 2013 | mod­i­fied 11 Jan­u­ary 2013
white rhino poachingRhino poach­ing sta­tis­tics released today by the South African gov­ern­ment reveal that a record 668 rhi­nos were killed across the coun­try in 2012, an increase of nearly 50% from the 448 rhi­nos lost to poach­ers in 2011, and a stag­ger­ing 5000% increase since 2007, when the num­ber poached was 13. An addi­tional five rhi­nos have been killed since the begin­ning of this year. A major­ity of the rhino deaths, 425, occurred in Kruger National Park, South Africa’s pre­mier safari des­ti­na­tion. Poach­ing inci­dents in Kruger rose sharply from 252 in 2011.

I did not want to believe the 2012 num­bers. This new high in South Africa for the num­ber of rhi­nos poached within the last decade is hor­rific. Poach­ers are step­ping up their game and we must do the same. We need to increase pro­tec­tion for rangers on the front­lines and curb the demand for rhino horn in con­sumer coun­tries to stop this heinous wildlife crime. I do not want to imag­ine a world in which rhi­nos no longer exist in the wild.
(Matthew Lewis, WWF’s African species expert)

A recent TRAF­FIC report found that rhino horns are mis­tak­enly believed to have med­i­c­i­nal prop­er­ties and are seen as highly desir­able sta­tus sym­bols in some Asian coun­tries, notably Viet­nam. The increased value of rhino horn has enticed well-​organised, well-​financed and highly-​mobile crim­i­nal groups to become involved in rhino poach­ing.

Viet­nam must cur­tail the nation’s rhino horn habit, which is fuelling a poach­ing cri­sis in South Africa,” said Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC’s Direc­tor of Advo­cacy. “Rhi­nos are being ille­gally killed, their horns hacked off and the ani­mals left to bleed to death, all for the friv­o­lous use of their horns as a hang­over cure.”

In Decem­ber, Viet­nam and South Africa signed an agree­ment aimed at bol­ster­ing law enforce­ment and tack­ling ille­gal wildlife trade includ­ing rhino horn traf­fick­ing. The agree­ment paves the way for improved intel­li­gence infor­ma­tion shar­ing and joint efforts by the two nations to crack down on the crim­i­nal syn­di­cates behind the smug­gling net­works.

While we com­mend South Africa and Viet­nam for sign­ing a Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing regard­ing bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, we now need to see a joint Rhino Plan of Action being imple­mented, lead­ing to more of these rhino horn seizures,” said Dr Jo Shaw, WWF-SA’s Rhino Coor­di­na­tor. “There is also an urgent need to work closely with coun­tries which are tran­sit routes for illicit rhino horn, specif­i­cally Mozam­bique.”

Both Mozam­bique and Viet­nam have been given fail­ing grades by WWF’s Wildlife Crime Score­card for fail­ing to enforce laws meant to pro­tect rhi­nos. The study also out­lines impor­tant actions needed by South Africa, such as ensur­ing those arrested for rhino crimes are pros­e­cuted and pun­ished.

(Source: WWF press release, 10.01.2013)
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