10 Reasons You Should Be Worried About Rhino Poaching
White rhinos are one of South Africa’s greatest natural treasures and they are at risk of extinction because of illegal poaching. In 2013, an estimated 1,004 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa for their horns. That is up from 668 in 2012. In reality, the numbers may be much higher. No one knows for sure how many of the animals were killed to fuel the demand for rhino horn, mostly in Asia. If you still aren’t worried about rhino poaching, here are 10 reasons you should be.
Sources: SmithsonianMag.com, MG.co.za, WWF.Panda.org, SouthAfrica.info, ALDF.org, SaveTheRhino.org, EarthsEndangered.com
1. Rhinos are at risk of extinction
At the beginning of the 1900s, there were about 500,000 rhinos in the world. By 1970, this had dwindled down to 70,000. Now, there are about 25,000 rhinos left in the world. Most are of the white rhino species and are found in South Africa. While these numbers don’t qualify the white rhino of South Africa as an endangered species (though several species of rhinos are endangered), there is no doubt that the white rhino is vulnerable. The past few years have seen in drastic increase in white rhino poaching. An estimated 1000-plus rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2013 alone. That is 4 percent of all rhinos left. Since poachers indiscriminately kill females and young rhinos, the slaughter is not something the rhino population can quickly recover from.
2. Rhinos are part of a larger ecosystem
All animals are part of larger ecosystems. When rhino poaching goes unchecked, it doesn’t just put rhinos at risk. It also puts all of the other plant and animal species sharing that ecosystem at risk. According to the Smithsonian, rhinos are keystone animals, meaning that they have a relatively large influence on their environment in relation to their actual population numbers. If rhino numbers dwindle, it affects the grasslands and soil content – and this will affect all other animals. Researchers warn that rhino poaching could cause the savannahs to become very different, and very empty, places.
3. Rhinos attract tourists
After the elephant, rhinos are the second-largest living land animal. In 2011, more than 8 million tourists came to South Africa and many took safaris to see these impressive animals. If rhinos become endangered, South Africa will lose out on vital tourism.
4. Fighting rhino poaching is expensive
South Africa has tried numerous strategies to fight rhino poaching. These strategies, such as deploying military forces to halt poachers, come with a high price tag. One of the most recent moves to save the rhino involved relocating up to 100 rhinos from South Africa to Botswana. All the rhinos were tagged and microchipped. The cost of the operation: $8 million.
5. Poachers don’t care which rhinos they kill
Poachers will often kill any rhino so long as they are able to get a horn from it. This includes young females or females with young calves. Female white rhinos don’t reach sexual maturity until about 6 or 7 years old and they generally only birth one calf every two or three years. Indiscriminate killing of females mean the rhino is even more likely to face extinction.
6. Rhino poaching leads to poaching of other animals
Rhinos aren’t the only animals sought by poachers. Cases against syndicates revealed that poachers also illegally hunted other animals, particularly the “big five” which includes rhinos, lions, leopards, buffaloes, and elephants. Some of these animals are endangered or vulnerable. By taking steps to prevent rhino poaching, other animals also become protected.
7. There is no proof that rhino horn has medical benefits
Hunting rhinos for their horns just encourages backward, superstitious thinking.
8. Rhino poachers are organized crime syndicates
Contrary to common belief, rhinos aren’t mostly being slaughtered by poor locals who have no other way of making a living. They are being hunted by organized gangs working for crime syndicates who use advanced technologies such as night vision and helicopters to illegally kill the animals. This is just another example of the rich getting richer by stealing a natural resource which should benefit local populations and the population of the world.
9. Violence against animals is linked to violence against humans
Numerous studies show that violence against animals is linked to violence against humans. South Africa is already suffering from horrendous crime rates, including a murder rate of about 45 per day.
10. Women are exploited to support illegal rhino trade.
South Africa and Swaziland are the only two countries in the world where you can legally hunt a rhino. Hunters are allowed to take the rhino horn home as a trophy. Rhino hunting syndicates are take advantage of this loophole to illegally sell and export rhino horn. In the trial against the Xaysavang syndicate Lieutenant Chumlong Lemtongthai, he admitted that his syndicate would recruit Thai women (many of whom were sex workers) to pose as hunters.
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