Bad news from The Economist regarding rhino horns:
On March 30th South Africa’s constitutional court overturned the ban on domestic trade. Now, if they have the right permit, people can trade rhino horn, but not export it. TRAFFIC’s Mr Milliken worries that this will lead to the worst of all worlds. Allowing some legal trade while the authorities are not properly enforcing the ban on illegal trade will muddy already murky waters. Once out of the country, legal and illegal horn will be all but indistinguishable. So users in Vietnam will have cheaper supplies; the illegal dealers still in control of the export trade will pocket the profits; and rhinos will keep falling to the poachers’ bullets.
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, rhino horn is still popular in Southeast Asia (particularly Vietnam) as a medicinal substance. It is ground up and used to “cure” everything from the common cold to infertility to cancer.
(Photo taken at my zoo)
My local zoo is involved in conservation efforts. They raise money for the International Elephant Foundation through an event called ZooBrew, which allows local breweries to feature their beers as people go to the zoo after hours. The 2016 fundraiser raised $9500 to IEF’s Protecting Elephants Conservation Detection Dog Network. This program helps train dogs in Congo, DRC, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia to help track and defeat poachers.
The 2017 ZooBrew money will also go to this important organization.
The zoo also contributes money to the International Rhino Foundation with an event called Cinco de Rhino, another craft beer event.
I live in the Finger Lakes region of NY, so wine and beer sales boost our local economy. Innovative programming like this help keeps our zoo able to reach out to the larger community and educate people about conservation efforts.
Photo: taken at my local zoo
(Photo: Ikiwaner, Wikipedia, GNU free licensed image)
Rhinos Without Borders detailed how they transport rhinos from areas of poaching to safe zones in Africa. Four rhinos are put in a military plane. Each rhino weighs 1.5 tonnes, and it requires a massive human effort of twenty five people to load and unload him from the plane. The rhino must be awake yet sedated, so he is blindfolded and has ear plugs to help keep him calm during the almost three hour flight. The plane also carries armed security, as poachers are not afraid to shoot during the rescue process.
From the BBC:
Most of the world’s wild rhino population – between 20,000 and 25,000 individuals – live in South Africa, where poaching is rife.
Rhinos Without Borders ultimately wants to resettle 100 of them.
The cost of shifting just one animal is around $45,000, if you include the expense of monitoring teams and anti-poaching patrols.
But as over 1,000 a year are killed in South Africa, equivalent to one every 7.5 hours – it may be the price of avoiding extinction.
After the tragic killing of a zoo rhino in France by poachers, zoos in Europe are considering de-horning their rhinos. Rhino horns are similar to human hair or nails – they can be cut and grow back without pain. The procedure takes about one hour.
photo: taken at my local zoo
From The Guardian:
The Dvur Kralove zoo, 70 miles north-east of Prague, has four southern white rhinos and 17 black ones, the largest group of its kind in Europe.
Director Přemysl Rabas said on Tuesday that it was a tough decision to saw off the animals’ horns.
But, he added: “The risk that the rhinos currently face, not only in the wild but even in zoos, is too high.
“The safety of the animals is our first concern. A de-horned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino.”
Photo: taken at my local zoo
Rhinos face the same concerns as elephants: poaching, destruction of habitat, and political conflict and corruption failing to protect them.
They also share the same geographical areas – Africa and Asia. As is the case with elephants, the countries with high populations of rhinos include Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
3 out of the 5 rhino species are critically endangered, yet rhinos do not receive the worldwide attention elephants do.
There are roughly 28,000 rhinos left in the world, and some species may be extinct as early as 2024.
Organizations like Save The Rhino need your support. You can give donations, buy a gift in the online shop, help with fundraising by sharing videos/photos/commentary on social media or by hosting an event, volunteer abroad, or take a safari that supports rhino conservation. (Details on the website)
This week has had its share of terrible poaching headlines. Vince, a Thoiry Zoo rhino, was shot and killed, then his horn was taken off with a chainsaw.
The poachers were clearly professionals as they went through three layers of security to access the rhino.
The French are in shock as this is the first incident of its kind in Europe.
It is certainly troubling to think that even captive animals are at risk from poaching. A rhino horn is worth about $40,000 on the ivory market. I fear this bold crime will lead to more vicious poaching attempts in other zoos around the world. According to The Guardian, European zoos are on high alert following the incident.
Photo: my local zoo’s rhino
Tragic news in South Africa, from BBC:
“Rhinos Impi and Gugu had their horns taken after a gang of poachers took staff hostage at the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday night.
Gugu was killed instantly but Impi survived, only to have to be put down the next morning due to his injuries.
Staff members are understood to have been assaulted during the attack.”
Rhinos are in even more danger than elephants. In the early 20th century, there were 100,000 black rhinos in Africa. Now, their population is less than 6,000. Without greater protection, African rhinos could be extinct (aside from those in captivity) within ten years.
(Photo taken at my local zoo)