Rhino poaching is a serious conservation issue in Southern Africa because without government and public intervention the rhino may be extinct within 10 years.
According to official statistics, three rhinos are killed in South Africa daily. Poachers come by helicopter at night, tranquillise the rhinos with dart guns and then cut off their horns to sell in Asia where they are believed to have medicinal value. The rest of the rhino is left to die a painful death from either blood loss or the effects of the tranquilliser. It’s a really gruesome end.
Rhino horn is just keratin (similar to what makes up your fingernails and hair ) so they really have no medicinal value. The rhino’s horn is of no value to anyone other than a rhino.
Tell that though to the Asians who believe rhino horn improves male vitality and cures a variety of illnesses. The South African government has approximately 25 tons of rhino horn seized from their raids with an estimated value of 16.5 billion South African Rand. Clearly, the selling of rhino horns is big business.
The Kruger National Park is selling off more than 500 rhinos to other safari parks in order to disrupt the effect of poachers. If the rhinos are more spread out, then it will be harder to kill bunches of them at the same time. You will need to buy rhinos in bulk though (at least 20 or more). Considering a rhino is about 275,000 South African Rand per animal at auction, you will definitely need a chunk of change (and a very large plot of land to keep them) which does limit the number of potential buyers.
Rhinos are herbivores who spend their day munching. Adult rhinos have no natural predators except for humans. Combined with their relatively limited intelligence, they make easy prey for determined poachers.
Approximately 1.4 billion South African Rand is spent annually to protect South Africa’s rhinos, both on public and privately managed conservation lands. South Africa contains more than 90% of the world’s white rhino and about 30% of the rare black rhino.
At the safari park we visited, they do not advertise that they have rhino. Their rhinos also have 24 hour surveillance to protect them with two dedicated rhino conservation officers leading the team. It’s not surprising then that the average cost to protect one rhino for one year is a considerable 70,000 South African Rand.
Our safari guide told us that rhino poaching has come to the forefront of conservation efforts because of their dwindling numbers. Elephants are likewise poached for their ivory which is also a major issue. Currently, however, African elephants are not in danger of extinction but that could change too.