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Poaching, the illegal take of wildlife, is on the rise. Rhinos are particularly valuable because of the perceived benefits of their horns. Since 2000 rhino poaching in South Africa has increased from 10 to more than 1000. Unfortunately, 2014 has created a new record high. On January 22, 2015, it was reported that 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa, which is a 21 percent increase from last year and more than 2/3 of these rhino were killed in Krueger National Park.
Governments are implementing stronger border regulations and law enforcement is issuing stronger punishments, but the problem is still rampant.
In the early 20th Century there were an estimated 500,000 rhinos in Africa and Asia. Although there is no way to validate the credibility of this estimate, rhinoceros have certainly declined to about 29,000 individuals living in the wild today despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction.
“Killing on this scale shows how rhino poaching is being increasingly undertaken by organized criminal syndicates,” WWF’s director of global species program, Dr Carlos Drews, said. “The country’s brave rangers are doing all they can to protect the rhinos but only a concerted global effort can stop this illegal trade. This includes South Africa scaling up its efforts to stop the poaching and Vietnam taking urgent measures to reduce consumer demand.”
The domestic policies on international species often fail to address the potential social and economic effects on the communities reliant on those species. Conservationists believe that decentralizing power over natural resources and placing that power more locally will create more effective and beneficial conservation strategies. Community-based natural resources programs, like CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe, are working with local communities to create incentives for people not only to tolerate wildlife, but to embrace their existence and their value.
Another solution that has been suggested has been a legalized market. A legal system will decrease its black market value and lower demand for illegally taken horn. It will allow countries to control it as a legal export and provide revenue that can boost their economies while producing income that would be invested directly back into rhino conservation.
As poaching increases across Africa, new, innovative management practices are becoming essential. Education, funding and law enforcement will all play a major part in the fight against poaching.
SCI Foundation will remain poised to assist and advise on how hunter-conservationists can continue to contribute as the strongest advocates for curtailing poaching and illicit trade in wildlife. Whatever the solution we are dedicated to ending this unlawful industry and promoting strategies that sustain our world’s most majestic wildlife.