Rhino Crisis Round Up: S Africa Death Toll Above 100 Rhinos & More

Here we are, not quite three months into 2012, and already more than 100 rhinos have been massacred in South Africa.

The Independent Online says the 100-plus figure was verified by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

Earlier this week, South Africa National Parks (SANparks) announced that it would not be providing updates regarding the rhino crisis; instead, all matters will be communicated via the DEA until further notice.

The statement comes less than a month after four Kruger National Park employees were arrested for suspected involvement with rhino killings inside the park.

Game farmer sentenced

Also in South Africa, game farmer Jacques Els was found guilty of illegally possessing rhino horns. Els was first arrested in 2010 for attempting to sell at least 30 horns and his alleged accomplice committed suicide shortly thereafter.

He was sentenced to eight years in jail; however, his legal team launched an immediate bail application and his next court appearance is scheduled for July.

Els is one of a growing list of South Africa’s “game industry white guys” who have been arrested — sometimes multiple times — for suspected involvement with rhino horn trafficking.

Rhino killer gets 14 years

A Zimbabwe man will serve 14 years in jail for attempting to kill rhinos in the country’s the Chipangayi Intensive Rhino Protection Zone, according to News Day.

Magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso found Munhuhaashati Bungumupeye (35) from Shodzai Village under Chief Chamutsa in Bikita, guilty of a count of breaching the Parks and Wildlife Act, as well as unlawful possession of a gun and ammunition.

Bungumupeye had a .303 rifle fitted with a silencer and three rounds of live ammunition in his possession when he was arrested.

Forest guards foil rhino-killing gang

Kaziranga National Park’s rhinos will live to see another day, thanks to the quick action of forest guards and their sniffer dog, a Belgian Malinois named Zobra.

Assam Times writer Ritupallab Saikia reported that forest guards in the Burapahar range responded immediately after hearing gunfire at 3:40 Wednesday morning near the Tuni Kati and Lahoroni forest camp.

No rhinos were found harmed, and the search is on for the gun-toting gang.

EU crackdown on antique rhino horn

A temporary suspension in rhino horn trade has been issued by the European Commission, following the continued abuse of trade loopholes.

The crackdown now extends to artistic items, such as rhinoceros horn cups and carvings.

The temporary suspension of trade in ‘artistic items’ will mean nearly all future applications for the export of rhino horn will be refused.

It is believed that traffickers “regularly attend auctions and visit antiques dealers” in order to acquire rhino horn, which is then passed to “intermediaries who feed the Chinese and Vietnamese market”.

For more information about how the antique rhino horn fits into the rhino crisis, see “Disturbing Connection Between Antique Rhino Horn Activity and Rhino Killings in South Africa.”

New horn for Rosie the rhino

Speaking of antique rhino horn, the BBC reports that Ipswich Museum’s beloved Rosie now has a new fiberglass horn.

Her horn was stolen last year, most likely by thieves hoping to cash in on the myth that rhino horn cures illnesses.

The museum’s collection manager Jayne Austin pointed out that Rosie’s horn is unlikely to benefit anyone’s health, since rhino horns from the Victorian period were treated with “substances such as arsenic”.

Rhino campaign launched in Vietnam

Recognizing that Vietnam is one of the main consumers of rhino horn, Vietnamese NGO Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) has taken the initiative to launch a campaign to reduce demand for rhino horn and raise awareness about the plight of the rhino.

Two public service announcements are being produced by ENV, and will be aired on national television.

One PSA warns the public not to engage in smuggling rhino horns, and highlights the recent sentencing of Vietnamese nationals in South Africa to lengthy prison terms.

The second PSA focuses on dispelling the belief that rhino horn has medicinal properties, and targets the consumers of rhino horn.

You can help support ENV’s rhino horn trade awareness campaign by making a donation via PayPal on the following pages:

Connect with Education for Nature-Vietnam on Facebook and Twitter @edu4naturevn.

Check out the interview with Quyen Vu, founder of Education for Nature-Vietnam, in the video below or listen to the podcast on iTunes.

Photo #1: Black rhino via Shutterstock; #2 greater one-horned rhino via Shutterstock. Images #2 & 4: Saving Rhinos LLC.

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