Rhino Crisis Round Up: Death Toll Rises to 181 in South Africa & More

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has reportedly updated the number of rhinos killed in the country this year to 181.

Investigative journalist Julian Rademeyer tweeted that 113 arrests have been made so far, and 111 of the 181 rhinos were killed in the flagship Kruger National Park.

However, despite the massacre — and thanks to the continued ban on rhino horn trade — the overall rhino population across Africa is increasing.

Court date approaches

South Africa’s “Groenewald gang” is expected to make another court appearance next week, on April 24th.

Game farmer and safari operator Dawie Groenewald, along with ten suspected accomplices, are facing 1,872 charges which include racketeering, illegal rhino hunting, permit violations, illegal trade in rhino horn, money laundering, and violating the Biodiversity Act and the Act on the Prevention of Organised Crime.

In addition to Groenewald and his wife, the alleged syndicate members include wildlife veterinarians, professional hunters, and a helicopter pilot.

Ratu update

On a much more positive note, I recently had to opportunity to speak with Bill Konstant from the International Rhino Foundation about his visit to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia, where Ratu is in the 14th month of an anticipated 16-month pregnancy.

Bill said that Ratu is “looking great” and that the calf’s heartbeat is “very strong”.

A special shelter has been constructed for her and the baby, where both will be under round-the-clock surveillance via closed-circuit cameras, but still have daily access to a small tract of rainforest where Ratu will be able to browse natural foods.

He also had the opportunity to meet the men who serve in the Rhino Protection Units.

Most of these men live many miles from the areas that they patrol, so they have to leave their families for days on end, most of it spent in the field, totally vulnerable to the elements. They’re a rugged group by any measure, and I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of any poacher that they catch. At the same time, they’re fantastic at public relations, working closely with local people who are just trying to survive in a shrinking landscape where humans and wildlife exist at close quarters.

Check out the interview below:

You can also listen to the podcast on iTunes.

Cinco de Rhino

Cinco de Mayo is the perfect time to learn more about the world’s five rhino species: Sumatran, white, black, Javan, and greater one-horned rhinos!

The International Rhino Keeper Association and the keeper staff of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are hosting a fundraiser called Cinco de Rhino, May 3rd, 2012 at Hacienda de Vega, Escondido, CA.

Over 90% of the proceeds will support the International Rhino Foundation’s Rhino Protection Units.

If you have questions about Cinco de Rhino or are hosting a Cinco de Rhino party, message the International Rhino Keeper Association via their Facebook page.

And help spread the word with #cincoderhino2012 on Twitter!

Photo #1: White rhino silhouette via Shutterstock; photo #2 © & courtesy of Bill Konstant/International Rhino Foundation; other images © Saving Rhinos.

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