Rhinoceros Poaching in South Africa Becoming Worldwide Issue

Did you know that over 330 Rhinoceroses were illegally poached in South Africa the year 2010 (Rhino)? Although not many people know about it, there is a high demand for the horn of a rhino in Asian countries such as Vietnam. It is highly illegal to kill the rhino; especially in the Kruger National Park where it is most commonly hunted.

While law enforcement has been increased, there still remains the issue of an almost endangered animal being wastefully and illegally hunted in the tourist-attracting country, South Africa.

The number of rhino killings has more than tripled since 2009 (Rhino). This is the result of a recent spike in the demand for rhinoceros horn. It is used for medicinal purposes and is said to have cancer curing properties (Rhino). It seems to be most common in Vietnam. The poachers do not take an ethical approach when killing these animals.

They usually hunt from helicopters at night and use high powered tranquilizer guns and rifles. Once they have the rhino down, they use a chainsaw to remove the horn from the snout of the animal (DeFranza). It is then taken and smuggled into foreign countries where there is a high demand for the horn.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is responsible for using crushed rhino horn in many of their medicines prescribed to other people. It is said that the Black Rhinoceros horn in some countries is as valuable as street cocaine (Rhino). These poachers obviously aren’t very smart and could use some help getting educated.

To the people that care about animals, and the majority of the world, this is an issue about the possible extinction of such a magnificent animal. If the rate of killings were to stay steady, it would only be a matter of a few years before the rhinoceros would go extinct. Animal conservationists and humane workers are desperately trying to come up with a resolution to stop this terrible problem.

Tom Milliken, Director of TRAFFIC’s East and Southern Africa program said, “Only a concerted international enforcement pincer movement, at both ends of the supply and demand chain, can hope to nip this rhino poaching crisis in the bud” (Rivord).

However, not everyone wants to halt the smuggling of rhinoceros horn. Companies and organizations rely on the imports of these horns to run their business. Many people in Asian countries truly believe that medicine from the horn of a rhino can cure many cancers and diseases. A Hong Kong Traditional Chinese Medicine Trader told New Scientist, “I agree that all herbalists have duties to protect the endangered animals, however, we are equally obliged to use these antidotes to cure the patients. In my opinion, human lives are much more important than those of the animals.” Scientists have proved, however, that the horn of a rhino has no medicinal value (DeFranza).

In conclusion, it is apparent that this global issue has no easy solution. I personally believe that if programs such as TRAFFIC, not to be confused with internet marketing traffic, should crack down on the other end of the chain- the companies and organizations that are buying the horns from the poachers. If there is no demand for the horn, the poachers won’t risk arrest and death to acquire them!

Stopping the trafficking from the importer’s side of the system would more efficiently crack down on the issue without as many deaths. Also, in areas where belief in natural remedies for sleep is strong, governments should strive to better educate their citizens to promote the truth about the ineffectiveness of the horn. It is only a matter of time before the rhino will become extinct, and the companies and organizations in other countries won’t have any more supply to their medicines.

If nothing is done about this conflict, both sides of the issue lose. Whether it be cracking down on the buyers of rhino horn, or educating those that use the medicines, something needs to be done to resolve this global issue.
Works Cited

DeFranza, David. “Does Protecting Endangered Rhinos Conflict With Traditional Chinese Medicine?” TreeHugger. 14 Jan. 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. <http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/01/does-protecting-endangered-rhinos-conflict-with-traditional-chinese-medicine.php>.

“Rhino Horn Use: Fact vs. Fiction.” PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. 2008. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/rhinoceros/rhino-horn-use-fact-vs-fiction/1178/>.

Rivord, Alona. “Rhino Poaching in South Africa Reaches All-time High.” WWF. 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. <http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/search_wwf_news/?198891/Rhino-poaching-in-South-Africa-reaches-all-time-high>.

Lyons, Mark. “Do not spray your carpets with imported chemicals.” TE. 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. <http://tucsonexterminating.org>

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