Photo credit: Todd Ryburn/Creative Commons
Following a report that 2010 was the worst year on record for rhino poaching in South Africa—with 333 animals, including 10 critically endangered black rhinos, killed illegally—officials there have announced that over the last four days South African police have shot and killed five suspected poachers.The first three suspects, police report, were killed during a shootout in the Pretoriuskop area of the Kruger National Park. The second two were killed on the border of Mozambique.
In the last several years, South Africa has ramped up security measures, allowing them to make 162 poaching arrests in 2010. In spite of these efforts, poaching has increased at a staggering rate.
Officers remain outmatched by technologically sophisticated crime cartels that utilize helicopters, night-vision equipment, tranquilizers, and high-powered rifles with silencers to take animals at night.
Demand for rhino horn in East and South East Asia has made illegally-obtained horns worth a small fortune on the black market. Ground rhino horn—which is made of keratin, the same compound found in human hair and fingernails—has traditionally been thought to treat fevers and convulsions and, more recently, cancer.
Though both synthetic and more sustainable natural alternatives exist, many people still believe rhino horn is the most potent and effect option. Numerous scientific studies have shown that rhino horn, in the doses commonly prescribed, has no effect on any known ailment.
Read more about rhinos:
Rhino Poaching in South Africa Reaches a New Record
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