Animals Black rhino (c) WWF

Published on January 12th, 2012 | by Rhishja Cota-Larson


South Africa: 448 Rhinos Killed in 2011 [Warning: Graphic]

© / Mark Carwardine / WWF

An announcement made today by WWF confirms that 2011′s rhino death toll in South Africa reached a record-breaking 448.

Of the 448 rhinos murdered for their horns, 19 were critically endangered black rhinos.

252 of the rhino killings occurred in Kruger National Park, where eight rhinos were found butchered earlier this week.

Rhino horn is not medicine

Rhinos are being killed because of the continued use of rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine — and recent rumors that rhino horn can cure everything from hangovers to cancer — despite the fact rhino horn has no medicinal value.

Even traditional Chinese medicine experts have stated that rhino horn has no proven cancer-treating properties.

Dr. Tim Milliken of the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC notes that rhino horn is a popular gift among wealthy Vietnamese people.

Rhino horn has gained popularity among wealthy Vietnamese elites and business people to give as a gift, when currying political favor, or taking as an antidote to overindulgence.

But killing endangered rhinos to mitigate a hangover is a criminal way to see in the New Year.

Contrary to popular belief, rhino horn has never been prescribed as an aphrodisiac.

© Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon

Focus on syndicate ‘kingpins’

South African authorities arrested 232 people for rhino-related crimes in 2011, compared to 165 arrests made in 2010.

However, Dr. Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-South Africa explains that syndicate “kingpins” must be the focus of rhino poaching investigations.

Rhino poaching is being conducted by sophisticated international criminal syndicates that smuggle horns to Asia.

It’s not enough to bust the little guy; investigators need to shut down the kingpins organizing these criminal operations.  Governments in Africa and Asia must work together across borders to stop the illegal trade.

Members of South Africa’s conservation community, such as the notorious ‘Groenewald gang‘ and professional hunters, have also been linked to rhino horn trafficking.

Enforcement treaty still unsigned

As one of the major rhino horn consumer countries, Vietnam was singled out by CITES to “curtail illegal trade in rhino parts and derivatives”.

WWF’s wildlife trade policy analyst, Dr. Colman O Criodain, would like to see more pressure on Vietnam.

So far we have yet to see Vietnam respond to this ruling from CITES.

For that matter, CITES must put pressure on Vietnam to respond meaningfully, as it has done with other countries whose compliance with the Convention has been called into question.

In September 2011, a bilateral treaty to ramp up law enforcement collaboration between South Africa and Vietnam was negotiated.

According to WWF, the treaty is still unsigned.

Undermining rhino conservation

Meanwhile, in China, a rhino farming scheme which undermines rhino conservation efforts by promoting the use of rhino horn is under way.

Video of a “rhino farm” in China:

South African wildlife authorities have approved the export of over 100 live rhinos to China since 2007.

Rhino extinctions and survivors

Last year, the extinction of Africa’s Western black rhino was confirmed, along with the Vietnamese Javan rhino.

Rhino populations with IUCN classification (source: WWF)

  • Javan rhino: Fewer than 50 (Critically Endangered)
  • Sumatran rhino: Fewer than 200 (Critically Endangered)
  • Black rhino: 4,838 (Critically Endangered)
  • Greater one-horned rhinos: 2,913 (Vulnerable)
  • White rhino: Approx. 20,000 (Near Threatened)

The white rhino and greater one-horned rhino once numbered fewer than 100 individuals.

Photos © & courtesy of WWF.

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About the Author

Rhishja is the founder of Annamiticus, a nonprofit organization which provides educational information and news about wildlife crime and endangered species. Rhishja has journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. At CITES CoP16 in Bangkok, she joined colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species from economic exploitation. When Rhishja is not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, she enjoys gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

  • Jkramer

    For decades I have read hundreds of articles about the plight of the rhino due to the harvesting of it’s horns and hundreds of times I have written notes to these organizations never to receive a reply. I have over and over suggested the controlled surgical removal of the rhino horns by qualified surgeons …The animals are left somewhat incapacitated to defend but not hopeless to survive. It would still have a blunt knob for defense but no horn to be killed for .According to the latest stats,there are only small numbers of these giants alive and this would be a means of them not being killed. So many of the organizations that ask for donations are only seeking funding to fund themselves….The crime seems to go unpunished …..If you eliminate the item of value the crime HAS to vanish….The horn is beautiful to look at but removing it will make the Creature alive and well to view instead of DEAD AND BLOODY 

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  • medusa567

    its a shame that the chinese in particular care nothing for anything on this planet, humans included.  For people supposed to be so advanced its just not right

  • Blockguy1

    Why aren’t the “Suspected Poachers” SHOT on site??  They do not wait & give any mercy to the poor helpless beasts!?!?

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