No one can say for certain when African rhinos first began to inhabit the forests and plains of Mozambique -- but we do know when their reign there ended. Conservationists say that the nation's remaining 15 rhinos were found dead last month, butchered by poachers and robbed of their horns.
The endangered animals were discovered on the grounds of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a wildlife reserve along Mozambique's southern border where rhinos numbered in the hundreds just a decade ago. Authorities believe that park rangers, charged with protecting the rare rhinos, aided poachers in their demise.According to The Telegraph, 30 rangers have been arrested and are due in court later this month.
To make matters worse, rhinos in neighboring South Africa appear headed towards an equally grim fate. So far this year, 180 of the endangered species have been killed by poachers -- leaving just 249 rhinos remaining.
For most of history, humans were wise to respect the powerful animals, but in recent decades poachers have cast aside reverence for greed, driven by the illicit trade in rhino horns. The demand for horns largely emanates from the Asian Black Market, where they're valued higher than gold for their supposed aphrodisiac properties.
Although a number of international conservation organization are working to slow the rhino slaughter, this sad milestone will likely not be the last.