A 4x increase since 2010What promised to be a tough year for rhinos in South Africa last summer turned out to be, well, a tough year. In July the number of known poaching incidents stood at 618, already a high number, and sadly since then the pace of killings has not slowed down. The final count for mid-November, which is the latest data available, stood at 1,020, and the number for 2014 full-year is expected to top 1,200.
This passes the previous record, which was the previous year in 2013 with 1,004 known poached rhinos, and it's almost a 4x increase from 2010, when 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. I think we can ask ourselves again: Are the poachers winning? Some people, like this ex-special operations sniper, is trying to fight back, but it's a little bit like the little Dutch boy with his finger on the hole in the levee. It's already getting pretty lonely for the Northern White Rhino, with only 5 individuals left on Earth, and the Western Black rhino was last seen in 2006 and is considered extinct...
Part of the problem is that rhino horn is coveted in Vietnam, China, and other parts of asian as an ingredient in traditional medicine (it doesn't work -- rhino horn is keratin, just like your fingernails). The market price for rhino horn is higher than gold and many illegal drugs (rhino horn can sell for up to $65,000 a kilo), so that attracts a lot of people to the trade, especially from extremely poor neighboring countries like Mozambique...
And this isn't just a problem for rhinos. Elephants too could be in trouble:
Final estimates for elephant poaching across Africa in 2014 will not come out for some time, but conservationists say the number of the animals being slain for ivory — valued for decorative purposes in China — is likely exceeding the number being born.
This suggests a "tipping point" of population decline is in prospect for Africa's 500,000 elephants.
"2015 will be key, possibly the most significant yet in the battle to save the world's iconic animals," said Richard Thomas, spokesman for TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network. (source)