Photo credit: tac1980/Creative Commons
In 2009, rhino poaching in Africa reached a 15 year high, with 122 animals killed illegally. In 2010, things got even worse. The number of rhinos illegally killed in South Africa—which has one of the two worst records on the continent—reached 333, including 10 critically endangered black rhinos.
Driven by demand in Asian medicine markets, poachers in South Africa utilize advanced techniques to acquire the horns—each one worth a small fortune on the black market—and conservation officers continue to struggle to keep pace.READ MORE: Suspected Rhino Poachers Shot Dead in South Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori, African Rhino Programme manager for the WWF, explained:
The criminal syndicates operating in South Africa are highly organized and use advanced technologies. They are very well coordinated...this is not typical poaching.
Indeed, organized criminals in South Africa operate at night and use helicopters, night vision equipment, tranquilizers, and rifles with silencers to slip past conservation officers.
South Africa is home to 21,000 rhinos, more than any other country in the world. This makes it a prime target for poaching operations in spite of the measures the government has taken to protect the country's prized animals.
"Only a concerted international enforcement pincer movement, at both ends of the supply and demand chain," Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC's East and Southern Africa program commented, "can hope to nip this rhino poaching crisis in the bud."
Solving this problem, clearly, will take more than an escalation of the conservation arms race; it will require the use of new techniques that interfere with the trade of contraband animal products and multilateral commitments to combating global black markets.
Read more about rhinos:
The Problem With 'Shoot to Kill' Conservation
GPS Devices Installed in African Rhinos' Horns
Rhino Poaching Increases 2000% in 3 Years
Poacher Attacked by Rhinos Hippos, Devoured by Lions
Rhino Poaching at 15 Year High as Asian Demand Increases