Rhino Populations

Worldwide, just five species of rhino remain, of which the black and white rhino are the two species that roam the plains of Africa.

Prior to colonial times, African rhino populations numbered in the hundreds of thousands. More recently, rhino populations remained guesswork until the 1960’s. Even today there is an element of uncertainty, that is compounded by secrecy for security reasons.

It is optimistic to say that a mere 4 000 black rhino and 17 000 white rhino survive today.

Rhino populations throughout Africa have been decimated, with 90% of the world’s rhino now remaining in South Africa.

"With so few numbers left and the increasing number of rhino being poached, our rhino are heading rapidly for extinction, unless we – ALL OF US – do something to ensure they survive!"

The Crisis

By the end of 2016, over 6 700 had been illegally poached in South Africa alone.

More than 1000 rhino a year (at least 3 every day) at the current poaching rate are cruelly slaughtered in the most inhumane ways, with poachers often hacking off their horns while they are still alive.

The agony these creatures endure, and the anguish for the rhino calves often left behind, is unimaginable.

Poaching is increasing at an alarming rate, and if something is not done to curb the killing, rhinos could be extinct in as little as 10 years – that is in OUR lifetime.

Understanding the Assualt

Poaching is being carried out by well-organised crime syndicates that are also linked to weapons, drugs, human trafficking networks and terrorism. These groups have high-tech equipment, are heavily armed with automatic weapons and are backed by extremely wealthy individuals.

There is a major increase in poaching due to the insatiable demand for rhino horn on the black market in Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, where it is used in traditional Chinese medicine, for trinkets, ornaments and as a social status symbol.

Despite its illegal state, rhino horn is sold openly on the streets of Vietnam, the primary consumers being wealthy, middle aged individuals classified as the “new rich”, who turn to rhino horn as a rejuvenating detoxifying beverage for restoring general health following too much of the good life – rich food, alcohol and drugs. These are high-flying business people whose consumption of rhino horn is very much a status symbol – a piece of rhino horn fetches a higher price on the black market than its same weight in platinum or gold.

Rhino horn is considered a ‘miracle cure’ by desperate individuals who suffer from life threatening diseases, which is compounded by claims from affluent members of society that they have been cured from cancer, despite the lack of medical evidence.

Rhino Horn

Rhino horn is largely made up of keratin, the same protein found in hair and fingernails. The centre of the horn contains dense mineral deposits of calcium and melanin, and is very similar in structure to the hoof of a horse.Although it is possible that very large amounts of keratin may possess some pain killing properties, it is definitely no more effective than over the counter medicines and there is currently no scientific proof that rhino horn is an effective cure for cancer or similar life threatening illnesses.

Asian traditions have been around for thousands of years. The perception that rhino horn is as effective as medicine needs to change urgently, but it seems unlikely that these age old traditions will give way to more acceptable alternatives in the immediate future.

Rhino horn has been used in Yemen for the handles of traditional curved daggers or ‘jambiya’, which are presented to boys at the age of 12 as a symbol of them coming of age. From at least the 7th century, rhino horns have been used to carve into ceremonial cups, buttons, belt buckles, hair pins and paper weights.

The Solutions

Our rhinos are in trouble and the solutions to saving them are as complex as the poaching issue itself. It requires a multi-faceted approach which addresses socioeconomic challenges such as poverty, unemployment and education; the reduction in demand for rhino horn in Asian countries; law enforcement which includes international and government cooperation; political will and cross-border support with neighbouring countries; the consideration of legalising a restricted and controlled trade in rhino horn as well as increased security with more boots on the ground protecting our rhino and military support.

The Cost of Rhino Security

Ideally each rhino should have a trained anti-poaching guard 24/7. This is very costly and most reserves cannot afford the enormous cost. This cost is further inflated by the equipment to do the job expertly. Technology such as GPS collars, horn treatment, camera traps, night vision and CCTV surveillance systems are all of vital importance but come at a very high price.

Every rhino in the Waterberg needs to be protected.  The ongoing poaching crisis means that ongoing security costs will continue, as long as rhino poaching persists.