By Amelia Meyer
South Africa is one of the countries that boast the highest population of rhinos in the world, both Black and White. White Rhinos are, without doubt, the most prolific rhino species, and are found in game parks and reserves throughout South Africa (as well as surrounding countries).
As such, South Africa has become a chief victim for illegal rhino poachers, who are in desperate search of these animals for their horns. Rhino horns sell on the black market for between R100 000 (locally) and R500 000 to international clients (as at April 2012).
The actual poachers, often local labourers, are rewarded with what may be equivalent to about six years’ salary for each horn that they get. This makes it a very attractive proposition to these ones.
The Kruger National Park is one of the world’s top tourist attractions, particularly for those wanting to experience the abundant fauna and flora of this magnificent country. However, being home to a large number of rhinos, it is also the regular victim of poachers, who sneak across its borders, tranquilise the animal, gouge out its horn and leave it to bleed to death alone and in pain. As of April 2012, the Kruger National Park had lost more than 250 of their rhinos. Despite many arrests of actual poachers as well as those behind the scenes, the slaughter continues, due to the high value of these items on the black market.
The North West Province and Limpopo Province have the highest number of rhinoceroses poached in the country.
Unfortunately, one of the major issues affecting the effectiveness of any preventative initiatives being undertaken by South African authorities is that poachers are being aided by those that should be involved in the protection of the rhinos (vets, game rangers, and so on), who partner with international crime syndicates. In addition, South Africa does not have the financial means to ensure that all borders are properly protected or that there are sufficient military staff members to patrol these borders. Those that are caught do not suffer huge peniteies, although legal officials are making continued efforts to change this.
South Africa has massive private stockpiles of rhino horns. These are also protected. However, it has occurred that horns from these stockpiles are being leaked onto the black market. This again necessitates that those that should be protecting the animals are the ones that are, in fact, involved in the illegal selling of their horns. Some rhinos’ horns have been removed under the pretence of protecting the animal from potential poachers. Later, those horns were the very one found to be sold on the black market. This all testifies to the corruption facing well-meaning officials in South Africa.
However, huge effort is being put into improving this situation. 2012 saw Kruger receive confirmation that they would receive 150 new rangers that would first undergo strict paramilitary training, employed for the protection of these animals.
South Africa is also working together with Asian countries to ensure that all white rhino horn trophies are properly certified and still in the possession of the original hunter when entering the country. This will mean that no foreign hunters will be able to apply for white rhino hunting certification.