The insanity of poaching Rhinos

When Denise called Rocky and Clover, two baby rhinos, they straight away turned around and ran towards the gates to say hello. Really? We had no idea rhinos were such affectionate and intelligent creatures.

We discovered soon after that the reason those calves are accustomed to humans and live within fences, it’s because they are orphans, and they need to be protected. Both the calves mothers have been killed by poachers so they could get hold of their horns.

At the moment, poaching of rhinos is a huge problem in South Africa, holding about 19.000 rhinos, representing 80% of the world’s population. Poachers often de-horn rhinos while they’re still alive, leaving them bleeding to death in a very slow and excruciating way.

One of the orphans’ mothers was shaking so hard while poachers were cutting her, that her spine was broken so she could lie still. The calf instead was pushed away by gun shooting so he wouldn’t bother the gang.

Rhinos are like human beings. Loosing their mothers in such a cruel way is a cause of deep distress. One of the orphans developed cataracts on both eyes soon after the deed, and had to be operated in Johannesburg in order to survive.

If nothing happens, rhinos are going to be extinct very soon. Slaughter of rhinos in South Africa started escalating in 2008, and has now counted 6.000 illegal kills. In 2015 1.175 rhinos have been killed, 900 of which in Kruger Park alone where there are something like 12 groups of criminal gangs operating at a time.

The biggest market in the world for rhino horns is Vietnam. It seems that with the higher number of cancer patients, Vietnamese recur to traditional Chinese medicine, and believe drinking rhino horn powder can cure from the disease. Furthermore, as Vietnam’s economy is growing, more affluent people need a way to show-off their wealth: rhino horns have become a luxury item and allegedly able to avoid hangover to those who drink it.

In reality, rhino horns don’t have any medicinal property. They are made of keratin and hold the same special powers of a human fingernail.

Despite the shocking figures and the effort of many groups to end this slaughter, there is lack of concrete action to stop it and persecute poachers: corruption overflows both in South Africa and in Vietnam.

For all these reasons poaching is likely to continue given the incentives outbalance the risks: one Kg of rhino horn is valued around 70,000 dollars on the black market, making it more profitable than gold, platinum, end even cocaine.

If we think that in 20 years rhinos could simply not exist anymore, and with them sweet Rocky and Clover, we couldn’t help but think of how greed and ignorance have made something so beautiful disappeared in such a cruel way.

 

 

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