At the turn of the century, the world-wide population of Rhino came in at about 500 000, mainly situated in Africa and Asia. This is a small number, and although conservation efforts are in full swing, poaching of the Rhino has increased intensely over the last 5 years. In 2011, The Western Black Rhino was declared extinct! The International Union for Conservation of nature (ICUN) has actually placed all 5 remaining species of Rhino in the endangered species category.
Of all the countries in which Rhino can be found, South Africa has the largest population. In 2014, Rhinos were killed by poachers in the country alone, and more than 3000 Rhinos have been killed since 2000 until today. Rhino poaching is not only isolated in South Africa, but has become an African epidemic, and the Rhino species across the continent is in real trouble. Last year, 39 Rhinos were killed in Kenya.
But what is it about the Rhino that poachers are so attracted to? Rhino horn! There is a high demand for the horn making it easy money for poachers. One horn can be sold for over 100,000 USD per kilogram! Why? Rhino horn is believed by many to hold great medicinal powers–on the long list of sicknesses that the horn is supposed to cure, is cancer. And as much as health organizations and Rhino conservationists try to dismiss the healing power of the horn, demand is only increasing. Apart from its supposed health benefits, the horn has become a status symbol with the horn being used by the rich to display their wealth.
Although poaching is illegal, some experts believe that legalizing the trade might help control trade, thereby saving the Rhino. Clare Atwood is a representative of British-based “Charity Network for Animals” and a nay-sayer of this theory. She believes that this may only make matters worse for the Rhino, and could also hurt the South African Tourism sector. How? If the Rhino becomes extinct, we will only have the “big 4”. And if the Rhino is wiped out, there would be nothing to stop the extinction of the elephant as well whose ivory tusks are also highly sought after. The “big 3” can’t possibly be attractive for tourists.
What are your thoughts on this epidemic? Do you think legalizing the trade will be beneficial?