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Save the Rhino!

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Poaching of African rhinos has risen 2,000 percent in the past three years & Rhino horns fetch up to $30,000 per pound.

The poaching of rhinos for their horns has risen dramatically over the last year and a half, conservationists report.

These crimes are fueled by demand for African rhino horn from the Asian market, where it can fetch more than $30,000 a pound ($60,000 per kilogram).

Africa is losing a rhinoceros every other day. South Africa, which holds more than 80 percent of the continent’s rhino population, has been losing at least 20 rhinos per month.

“Within South Africa’s national parks — not counting private land there, where poaching was rare — there were 10 rhinos poached in 2007,” said Matthew Lewis, senior program officer for African species conservation for the World Wildlife Fund. “Thus far in 2010 alone, more than 200 rhinos were poached within South Africa, with a lot of those poached outside national parks, so that’s a more than 2,000 percent increase in just three years’ time.”

The horns might weigh 6.3 to 8.1 pounds (2.9 to 3.7 kilograms) on average. Bits of crushed horn are a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines.

The crisis in Africa

Two species of rhino are native to Africa, while three are native to southern Asia. Of the two African species, the white rhinoceros is near-threatened, and the black rhinoceros is critically endangered. Some 4,000 black rhinos and 17,500 white rhinos are all that keep Africa’s rhinoceros population from extinction.

Hundreds of thousands of rhinos once roamed throughout Africa. Now highly organized international groups of illegal hunters are using helicopters and deploying technologies including night-vision scopes, silenced weapons and drugged darts to find and kill these giants.

“We’re up against the emergence of really high-tech poachers,” Lewis said. “This tactic of using helicopters and veterinary drugs on darts has really only come out in the last six months to a year. It really points to organized crime.”

Greed and nonsense

Most rhino horns leaving southern Africa are destined for markets in Asia, especially Vietnam, where demand has escalated in recent years.

“A lot of that has to do with how Vietnam’s economy has grown astronomically,” Lewis said. The country’s newly affluent middle and upper class seems to be seeking rhino horn as some kind of miraculous remedy, he said, although its traditional use in Chinese medicine is for fevers and nosebleed.

Rhino horn is made from keratin, “from compacted hair, a very similar substance to the hooves of a horse or a cow, or a person’s own fingernails,” Lewis said. “Taking rhino horn has the same effects as chewing on your fingernails: no medicinal properties whatsoever.”

With prices that high, there’s also the prospect “of creating anything and calling it rhino horn,” Lewis said. “People can throw in all kinds of crazy things, and it could actually be very dangerous.”

Trouble in Asia

Asian rhinos, which generally have smaller horns, seem to be less of a target for poachers. Still, two of the three Asian rhino species, the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses, are critically endangered at populations of 40 and 400, respectively, Lewis said, and only 2,400 or so Indian rhinoceroses remain in the wild.

“They were nearly wiped out 100 years ago, and they’re hanging on by a thread,” Lewis said. “Indian rhinos have much larger horns than the other two Asian species, and we’ve seen escalation to their poaching similar to Africa in the past three or four years.”

“We have to raise awareness and get on top of this,” Lewis concluded. “Rhinos could go extinct in our lifetime as a result of this if awareness isn’t raised.” He hopes increasing public awareness about the plight of rhinos could spur a crackdown on the criminals who buy and kill for these horns.

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First death from consuming poisoned Rhino horn

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And now that I have your attention, this from the Bangkok Star in Thailand.

A woman mourns over the body of her deceased husband after he had purchased apparently purposely contaminated Rhino horn on the open market in Bangkok. The source of the contamination is still to be verified but it is thought to be from a private game farm somewhere in southern Africa. Officials in Thailand are frantic to identify the source, as the powdered horn is sold in miniscule amounts and they have no idea how much has already been distributed throughout Bangkok. Local hospitals are on standby for an unprecedented influx of new cases.

Officials are unable get information as the rhino horn dealers in Bangkok are being unco-operative. They neither want to be fingered as being the provider of the poisoned horn, not do they want to reveal their illegal international sources. It is believed that private game farm owners in southern Africa are colluding between themselves to distribute an effective poison that is harmless to the animals but harmful, or even fatal as in this case, to those that ingest the contaminated horn.

A game farm owner from the North West Province who obviously wishes to remain anonymous, has admitted to using the poison on 4 of his animals. Three of them have shown no side-effects whatsoever 2 months after the poison was injected into the horns. However the 4th rhino was slaughtered and de-horned on a remote part of his farm in the last week of July. When asked to comment on the death in Thailand from suspect poisoned rhino horn, he refused to be drawn into the morals of the farmers joint action. He said that there would be many more cases in the near future as he was personally aware of at least another 5 slaughters of contaminated rhinos in the North West Province alone.

Authorities in South Africa are unable to comment on the “poison” collusion among the game farm owners nor are they able to verify the source of the contaminated horn.

Sources are confirming that many other rhino herds are being considered for poisoning of their horns and that some have already taken place.

I support all actions which lead to a reduction in the killing of Rhino including the death penalty for poachers.

Rhino calf found dead alongside poached mother

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From “News24.com”

Johannesburg – A rhino cow was on Wednesday night shot dead presumably with an R5 assault rifle near Roedtan in Limpopo. Her hamstrings and horns were chopped off with an axe.

Earlier in the day, a rhino bull was shot dead with an AK47 assault rifle in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi nature reserve in KwaZulu-Natal and his horns were sawn off.

This brought the amount of rhino that had been killed by poachers since the beginning of last year to 300. This year, 178 rhinos have already been killed countrywide.

These numbers included the poached rhino and the calves that died after the mothers were killed.

Captain Herman Lubbe of the Modimolle (Nylstroom) police’s cattle theft unit said the cow that had been poached in Roedtan, was 40 years old and her horn was 93cm long.

According to Riaan de Jager from the Limpopo department of environmental affairs, the rhino had been shot several times.

Professional hunter

The owner of the farm did not want to make his name known as he feared more poaching.

Faan Coetzee, head of the Rhino Security Project at the Endangered Wildlife Trust said the bull that was poached in KwaZulu-Natal was killed with one shot to the head.

It looked like it could be the work of a professional hunter. “The animal’s horns were sawn off with precision. It means the horns were sawn off right at the nose,” said Coetzee.

Rangers in the Kruger National Park also found the carcass of a badly decomposed rhino cow. Her calf of about two years old was apparently still with the carcass. The cow was presumably poached about two weeks ago.

André Snyman, the founder of eBlockwatch, said on Thursday he was on the verge of starting a database of rhino poaching on the website. Members of eBlockwatch in the Roedtan area helped nature conservation officials and police on Thursday with the tracking of poachers.

Soldiers deployed in Kruger Park

Coetzee said he had learnt that the national unit against poaching, which Water Affairs and Conservation Minister Buyelwa Sonjica was starting, would soon begin operations.

The defence force announced on Wednesday that 150 soldiers would be deployed from April 1 in the Kruger National Park to help fight rhino poaching.

Game farmers and auctioneers who attended the Soutpansberg game auction in Alldays on Friday believed that rhino poaching was the reason why not one of the 16 white rhino in the safety catalogue were sold. The two black rhino were also not auctioned off.

– Anyone with information about the Roedtan case could call Lubbe on 084 515 6925.