Indian rhino in Kazaringa national park, Assam, India. Photo: Lip Kee Yap via flickr
Asian demand for rhinoceros horn for medicinal use has driven poaching in Africa and Asia to a 15 year high, WWF reports. This is of course despite the fact that trade in rhino parts from any species is banned under international treaty. In some places it has gotten so bad that a decade's worth of successful conservation efforts are being reversed:WWF says that in the period of 2000-2005 the African average for rhinos killed by poachers was about three per month, out of a total population of approximately 18,000. However in Zimbabwe and South Africa that rises to 12 per month.
In India and Nepal, where rhino populations are even lower, numbering about 2,400 individuals, poaching is no better. About 10 rhinos have been killed in India since January 2009; seven have been killed in Nepal.
Dr Susan Lieberman of WWF describes the severity of situation:
This is the worst rhino poaching we have seen in many years and it is critical for governments to stand up and take action to stop this deadly threat to rhinos worldwide. It is time to crack down on organized criminal elements responsible for this trade, and to vastly increase assistance to range countries in their enforcement efforts.
In addition to increasing Asian demand, lack of law enforcement and weak penalties for poachers who are caught are both contributing to the problem.