Rhino poachers have killed 232 rhinos during 2013 so far in South Africa, reports Annamiticus, which averages out to 2.1 a day. The country has become a flashpoint for rhino poaching as it holds more rhinos than any other country on Earth. Rhinos are being slaughter for their horns, which are believed to be a curative in Chinese traditional medicine, although there is no evidence this is so.
Last year, South Africa lost 668 rhinos to poachers, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Most of the rhinos killed are white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum), which are currently listed by the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened. The other four rhino species are more endangered: the Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is listed as Vulnerable, while the black, Javan, and Sumatran are all listed as Critically Endangered. The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is down to just 100 individuals, while the Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is down to about 60.
Although South Africa’s rhino crisis has been escalating in recent years, the country has not been able to successfully combat the poachers. Many point to corruption, lack of adequate law enforcement, and light penalties for poachers as exacerbating the problem.
Wildlife organizations have also called on Vietnam and China, where rhino horn consumption is fueling the trade, to do more to undercut the illegal trade. Scientific studies of rhino horn have shown it is almost entirely made of keratin, and thus consuming it is the equivalent of eating one’s fingernails.
One rhino sanctuary has turned to injecting its rhino’s horns with a non-lethal poison that will make anyone who consumes it sick.
This article was written for Mongabay.com and reposted on Focusing on Wildlife.