Poaching of rhinos

By: Mila Hart

Poaching has been defined as the illegal hunting of wild animals. This has been an issue all over the world for hundreds of years. It was in the late middle ages that poaching officially became illegal and a punishable offense.

More than half of the world’s poaching occurs in Africa. This is because Africa is home to a large variety of rare animals. The countries with the most poaching are Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The main animals that are affected by poaching in Sub-Saharan Africa are white and black rhinoceros, African elephants, and lions but the list goes on and on.

Rhinos are poached for their horns. In recent years the poaching for rhino horns has increased because the demand for them has skyrocketed in Vietnam. The Rhino horns are extremely valuable and can be sold on the black market for upwards of half a million US dollars. Rhino horns can be used in medicine but they are mainly purchased as a symbol of wealth.

In 2004, 12 rhinos were poached in South Africa but because of the increase in demand nearly 1,000 rhinos in South Africa were poached in 2013. The population of black rhinos was estimated to be about 100,000 in 1960. Since then there has been a significant decrease and now the population is around 5,000. One of the main causes of this decline is poaching.

Over the years, conservationists have developed methods on how they can help protect rhinos from poachers. When it comes down to it, when the horn is left on the rhino the chances of it being killed are much greater than if the horn is removed. This has led conservationists to safely remove the horns themselves.

Rhino horns are made up of keratin, the same thing your nails and hair are made up of. When poachers cut off the horns they try to get as much of it as possible; to do so they cut off part of the rhino’s face as well. Because of this rhinos are left with dismembered faces and could very easily die if not rescued in time.

The process of safely removing a rhino horn begins by tranquilizing a rhino from a helicopter and tracking it until it is sedated. Once on the ground, the conservationists will cut the rhino’s horn off safely above the growth plate. This leaves a stump that will grow back in two to three years. Because rhinos live with no natural predators, living without the horn would not make them more vulnerable in the wild. Conservationists at Vetpaw say that if they weren’t taking action now then both elephants and rhinos would be extinct in the next ten years.