By Amelia Meyer
Poaching is defined as the illegal hunting of animals (whether land animals or aquatic animals) on land that is not one’s own or within a protected area.
These animals are usually protected or endangered to some degree. The world’s different rhinoceros species are certainly included within the endangered category and face the very real threat of extinction all over the world.
Poaching is the chief danger that these animals face, with thousands of them becoming victim to the slaughter of illegal hunting each year.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) banned the trading of rhino horns in 1977 in response to the ever-increasing demand for these items. The horns are used for their exquisite ornamental value, known for becoming translucent when cut in a certain way. However, a far greater demand comes from the Chinese market, which uses the horns for their traditional medicine.
This remains an issue despite countless investigations that have proven that the horn has absolutely no medicinal value to human consumers. The Chinese believe rhino horn to be particularly effective in the treatment of strokes, fevers and convulsions. In Yemen, it is a common practice to use the horn to create handles for the daggers representing manhood and status.
South Africa is particularly serious about its anti-poaching campaigns and initiatives, but is also particularly vulnerable to the poaching of its valuable rhino resources, since the White Rhino (found only in Africa) is more abundant than any of the other rhino species. In Asia, there are so few rhinos left, and those species that occupy these areas are known for being reclusive and shy. The Sumatran and Javan Rhinos are both classified as being Critically Endangered, but do not escape the heartless bullets of poachers.
As the demand for their horns continues to escalate, rhinos all over the world continue their struggle to stay alive. Currently, the number of rhinos being killed outnumbers the births of new, heitehy calves.
The poachers are usually heavily armed and working in teams, which makes them a very dangerous force to face for game rangers. The banning of the trading of rhino horns has done nothing to quell the efforts of determined poachers either.
Sadly, the hunting of rhinoceroses is legal in South Africa, although the conditions for a hunting permit are very strict. This hunting permit allows the hunter to kill one rhino a year for a fee of between $50 000 and $100 000, which is equivalent to approximately R500 000. The specific amount depends on the park and its requirements. Any trading in the horn must be done with the correct legal papers.
In addition to strict security measures, game rangers are also investigating the viability of poisoning the horns of living animals so that they are not killed for them. Another preventative method is to remove the horns of the rhinos in parks and reserves to give the poachers no reason to kill the animals.
Donations toward anti-poaching initiatives are generally spent on equipment, weapons, training guards and conducting awareness campaigns.