Rhino Crisis Round Up: Yao Ming in Kenya & More

White rhino charging
Retired NBA star Yao Ming was in Kenya to film “The End of the Wild” documentary — and to bring international awareness to the plight of African rhinos and elephants, whose numbers are being decimated by demand from China.

Yao’s itinerary included a visit to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to four of the world’s last seven Northern white rhinos. He blogged about the experience at yaomingblog.com:

I meet Najin and Suni with their keeper Mohammed. I’m even able to feed hay to them and tickle behind their ears. It’s clear these are Mohammad’s babies. He dotes on them and if anything happened to them he would be heartbroken.

These are immense and powerful creatures. As one of them pushes me, I’m reminded of the immense pressure I used to feel when I had to guard Shaquille O’Neal. You knew that pressure while guarding Shaq, and you know it when a rhino leans on you.

Read more of Yao’s blog post at “Quality Time with Najin and Suni” — and check out this awesome photo!

Game farmers going to jail

IOL.com reports that two South African game farmers — Ewart Potgieter and Riaan Vermaak — were given hefty prison sentences for their part in scheming to kill rhinos.

Potgieter was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment — six years for conspiracy to hunt rhino and attempting to hunt rhino, 10 years for possession of illegal firearms and two years for possession of illegal ammunition. Vermaak received 10 years and six months — six years for for conspiracy to hunt rhino and attempting to hunt rhino, four years for possession of illegal firearms and six months for possession of illegal ammunition.

The duo was nabbed in an undercover operation led by Warrant Officer Jean-Pierre van Zyl-Roux, of the Durban Organised Crime Unit.

Another South African game farmer, Jacques Els, recently began serving his eight-year sentence for dealing in rhino horn.

More than 300 rhinos have been killed in South Africa since the start of 2012.

Sumatran rhinos confirmed

Although not seen in Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem area for 26 years, camera traps have confirmed that seven individual Sumatran rhinos are still surviving. The Leuser International Foundation (LIF) said on their website that the survey team also found footprints, feces, mud wallows, and “twisted branches left by Sumatran rhinos.”

LIF estimates that the ongoing survey may find as many as 25 Sumatran rhinos in the area.

Image: Rhino charging via Shutterstock

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