Rhinos are facing extremely tough times as highly technical and interconnected poachers have increased their slaughter rates and have been taking down nearly one a day lately in South Africa. In 2010, 333 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa. This is a record and is almost triple the number that were poached in 2009, 122. Ten of these rhinos were critically endangered black rhinos.
2011 started in a similar way. In less than the first two weeks, 5 rhinos were killed by poachers. A main driver of this poaching seems to be an increased demand for the rhino’s horns due to claims, according to traditional Asian medicine, that the horns help cure cancer.
“This is not typical poaching,” said Dr. Joseph Okori, WWF African Rhino Program Manager. “The criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are highly organized and use advanced technologies. They are very well coordinated.”
Sophisticated criminal networks are using helicopters, night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquilizers and silencers these days to kill rhinos at night, WWF reports. This helps them to avoid military and law enforcement patrols.
“The recent rhino crime wave is largely attributed to the increased demand for rhino horn, which has long been prized as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine. Its popularity increased in Vietnam after claims that rhino horn possesses cancer-curing properties, despite any medical evidence.”
For a lot more on what WWF is doing to try to stop this poaching from happening, read:
Rhino poaching at shocking all-time high in South Africa.