Rhino: No Horn Of Plenty

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“This is a long post, but if you are interested in Rhino, this is a must read & well worth the time needed to read it!!”

More rhinos will be killed in the next two years than will be born, so those charged with saving the endangered animal are considering radical and previously unimaginable solutions.

Twenty-four-hour watch: An anti-poaching team guards a de-horned northern white rhinoceros in Kenya in 2011. Photo: Brent Stirton

The battle to save the African rhinoceros has all the ingredients for a Hollywood thriller. There are armed baddies with good guys in hot pursuit. There is a hint of glamour. And the drama is played out against a backdrop of a beautiful, bloodstained landscape.

It is a story that begins, perhaps improbably, in Vietnam soon after the turn of the 21st century. A Vietnamese official of some influence, so the story goes, lets it be known that he, or perhaps it is his wife (for the sake of the story it matters little), has been cured of cancer. The miracle cure? Rhino horn powder.

With disconcerting speed, the story shifts to southern Africa, where a series of gunshots ring out across the African plains. This is followed by the hacking sound of machetes – it takes little time to dehorn a rhino because its horn consists not of bone but of keratin fibres with the density of tightly compressed hair or fingernails.

The getaway begins, armed rangers give chase. Once the horn leaves the flimsy protection of the national park or game reserve, where its former owner lies bleeding to death, it may never be found.

White Rhinoceros with a calf at Lake Nakuru national Park in Kenya. Photo: Martin Harvey/WWF

Its new owners never brought to justice. Sometimes they are caught. Sometimes they get away. Either way, another rhino is dead in a war that the bad guys seem to be winning.

The story shifts again, back to Vietnam where even the prime minister is rumoured to have survived a life-threatening illness after ingesting rhino horn. More than a cure for the country’s rich and powerful, however, rhino horn has by now crossed into the mainstream. Young Vietnamese mothers have taken to keeping at hand a supply of rhino horn to treat high fevers and other childhood ailments.

It is also the drug of choice for minor complaints associated more with the affluent lifestyle to which increasing numbers of Vietnamese have access; rhino horn has become a cure-all pick-me-up, a tonic, an elixir for hangovers.

With this new popularity has come the essential paraphernalia common to lifestyle drugs the world over, including bowls with specially designed serrated edges for grinding rhino horn into powder. In a short space of time, rhino horn has become the latest must-have accessory for the nouveau riche.

The sudden spike in Vietnamese demand, the miraculous fame of a saved official or his wife, and rhino horn’s emergence as a symbol of status all came at a time when legal stockpiles of rhino horn were at an all-time low. Demand and supply. This is the irrefutable law of economics.

Or, as one expert in the illegal trade in rhino horn put it: ”It was a perfect storm of deadly consumption.”

The rhinoceros is one of the oldest creatures on earth, one of just two survivors – the other is the elephant – of the megaherbivores that once counted dinosaurs among their number. Scientists believe rhinos have changed little in 40 million years.

The rhino’s unmistakable echo of the prehistoric and the mystery that surrounds such ancient creatures – this is the animal that Marco Polo mistook for a unicorn, describing it as having the feet of an elephant, the head of a wild boar and hair like a buffalo – have always been its nemesis.

As early as the first century AD, Greek traders travelled to the east, where the rhino horn powder they carried was prized as an aphrodisiac. But the rhino survived and, by the beginning of the 20th century, rhino numbers ran into the hundreds of thousands.

They were certainly plentiful in 1915 when the Roosevelts travelled to Africa to hunt. Kermit, the son, observed a rhinoceros ”standing there in the middle of the African plain, deep in prehistoric thought”, to which Theodore the father is quoted as replying: ”Indeed, the rhinoceros does seem like a survival from the elder world that has vanished.”

The Roosevelts then proceeded to shoot them.

Rhinos are epic creatures, gunmetal grey and the second-largest land animal on earth. Up to five metres long and weighing as much as 2700 kilograms, the white rhino, the largest of all rhino species, can live up to 50 years if left to grow old in the wild. In an example of advanced evolutionary adaptability, the black rhino will happily choose from about 220 plant species, eating more than 70 kilograms of plants a day.

These impressive numbers, combined with some of the rhino’s more limiting characteristics – it has very poor eyesight – have added to the myth that surrounds it.

”A slight movement may bring on a rhino charge,” reported nature writer Peter Matthiessen in the 1960s. ”Its poor vision cannot make out what’s moving and its nerves cannot tolerate suspense.”

Thus it was that the rhinoceros became a permanent member of the ”big five”, the roll-call of the most dangerous animals in Africa as defined by professional hunters.

But respect has always been tinged with derision. ”I do not see how the rhinoceros can be permanently preserved,” Theodore Roosevelt is reported as wondering, ”save in very out-of-the-way places or in regular game reserves … the beast’s stupidity, curiosity and truculence make up a combination of qualities which inevitably tend to ensure its destruction.”

In the 1960s, one eminent scientist described the rhinoceros as ”a very pathetic prehistoric creature, quite unable to adapt itself to modern times. It is our duty to save and preserve this short-tempered, prehistorically stupid but nevertheless so immensely lovable creature.”

Such disparaging remarks aside, they were, of course, right to be worried.

We have been here before when it comes to saving the rhino. In 1960, an estimated 100,000 black rhinos roamed across Africa, absent only from tropical rainforests and the Sahara. By 1981, 15,000 remained. In 1995, there were just 2410 left on the continent. In 2006, the western black rhino was declared extinct.

In Kenya, the numbers of black rhino fell from 20,000 at the beginning of the 1970s to 300 within a decade. This catastrophic fall in rhino numbers was the consequence of a poaching slaughter that consumed the country’s wildlife as lucrative ivory and rhino horn was consumed to meet the growing demand in Asia; rhino horn also made its way to the Arabian Peninsula, where it was used to fashion the handles of traditional Yemeni daggers.

It was in Kenya’s south, in the Tsavo National Park, that the war against rhinos reached its nadir – the park’s rhino population fell from 9000 in 1969 to less than 100 in 1980.

Since then, rhino numbers have rebounded thanks to a combination of legal protection – the trade in rhino horn was declared illegal under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1975 – and beefed-up security.

When I visited the Tsavo West Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary three decades after the massacre, I was met by guards in full military fatigues and armed with machineguns. ”These rhinos in here,” one guard told me, ”they receive more protection than many African presidents.”

Kenya’s population of black rhinos grew to about 600, with the continent-wide figure thought to be 10 times that number. Efforts to save the white rhino proved even more successful, with more than 20,000 in South Africa alone. A corner had been turned, it seemed, and the battle to save the rhino was counted among the great conservation success stories of our time.

And then Vietnam acquired a taste for rhino horn.

In 2007, 13 rhinos were killed in South Africa. In the years that followed, the rate of killing grew steadily. From 2007 to 2009, one quarter of Zimbabwe’s 800 rhinos were killed, and Botswana’s rhino population has fallen to just 38. In South Africa, home to 90 per cent of the world’s white rhinos, armed guards patrol the parks.

Even so, 448 rhinos were killed in 2011. The following year, the number rose to 668. In the first 65 days of 2013, poachers killed 146 rhinos. At current rates the figure for this year will be close to 830.

As a result, rhino populations could soon reach a tipping point that may prove difficult to reverse. The rhino death rate will exceed its birth rate within two years on current trends, according to Dr Mike Knight, chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s African Rhino Specialist Group. ”We would then be eating into rhino capital.”

Chief scientist of South Africa’s National Parks Hector Magome agrees: ”If poaching continues, the rhino population will decline significantly by 2016.”

The importance of saving Africa’s black and white rhinos is given added weight by the negligible numbers for the world’s other three surviving rhino species – the almost 3000 Indian rhinos live in highly fragmented populations, while just 220 Sumatran and fewer than 45 Javan rhinos survive. Vietnam’s last population of Javan rhinos was declared extinct in October 2011.

It is proving far easier to quantify the threats faced by Africa’s rhinos than it is to arrest the decline for one simple reason: what worked in the past no longer holds.

The recent upsurge in poaching has taken place in spite of the CITES regime of international legal protection. Security is also tighter than it has ever been.

In South Africa’s Kruger National Park, home to almost half the world’s white rhinos, 650 rangers patrol an area the size of Israel or Wales. This falls well short of the one-ranger-per-10-square-kilometres ratio recommended by international experts, and more than 100 rhinos have already been killed in Kruger this year.

Thus, those charged with saving the rhino are considering radical and hitherto unimaginable solutions. One such approach gaining traction is the controversial plan to legalise the trade in rhino horn, dehorn thousands of rhinos and flood the market with newly legal horns.

Were this to happen, supporters of the proposal say, the price of rhino horn – which reached $65,000 a kilogram in 2012 – would fall, and the incentive for poaching would diminish.

Dehorning has long been opposed by conservationists – rhinos use their horns to defend themselves and while feeding. But the failure of all other methods has convinced some that the time has come to contemplate the unthinkable.

”The current situation is failing,” Dr Duan Biggs, of the University of Queensland and one of the leading advocates for legalising the trade in horns, said recently. ”The longer we wait to put in place a legal trade, the more rhinos we lose.”

Dr Biggs and others point to the legalisation of the trade in crocodile products as an example of how such a plan could work.

Critics counter that any legalisation of the trade in rhino horns is unenforceable. They also argue that lax or ineffective legal controls in Vietnam – where trading in rhino horn is already illegal – and elsewhere ensure that it will be impossible to separate legally obtained rhino horns from those supplied by poachers.

”We don’t think it would stop the poaching crisis,” says Dr Colman O’Criodain, of the World Wildlife Fund. ”We think the legal trade could make it worse.’

The debate about saving rhinos is riddled with apparent contradictions: that we must consider disfiguring rhinos if we are to save them; that rhino numbers have not been this high in half a century but the risk of their extinction has never been greater.

And so it is that the story of the rhinoceros has reached a crossroads. It is a story that pits, on one side, a creature that has adapted to everything millions of years of evolution have thrown at it, against, on the other, the humans that will either drive the species to extinction or take the difficult decisions necessary to save it.

News Link-http://www.theage.com.au/world/no-horn-of-plenty-20130514-2jknt.html#ixzz2TKNlQary

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Rhino Poacher Jailed For 40 Years In South Africa

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“Below are links to video & a more detailed look into this illegal racket. I was going to post it, had it all set up, then I saw this lighter version! But it’s worth reading, sounds to me like others got off Scott free; make me wonder if this guy hasn’t taken the rap for a few others!!”

A Thai man who organised illegal rhino poaching trips has been given the country’s strongest illegal wildlife sentence to date.

Thai national Chumlong Lemtongthai is sentenced at Kempton Park magistrates court, South Africa. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

A Thai national has been sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to charges of exporting rhino horns from South Africa, in the country’s strongest illegal wildlife sentence to date.

Chumlong Lemtongthai admitted to playing a large part in a scheme that used white rhino trophy hunts in South Africa as a cover for smuggling horns to black markets in Asia. He employed Asian nationals to pose as hunters and take part in organised hunts on game farms in the North West province.

Charges against three South Africans and two others Asian nationals, the co-accused, were however dropped without explanation.

Lemtongthai told Johnannesburg’s Kempton Park magistrates court: “I humbly apologise to the court and to the people of South Africa for my role in this matter. I appreciate that the emotions of all animal lovers in South Africa are running very high and that I was part of the problem.”

Jo Shaw, rhino co-ordinator for WWF-SA, said: “These higher-level arrests and convictions are critical to disrupting the illegal trade chains used to move rhino horns into illicit markets in Asia.”

Areas of Asiain particular Vietnam, have increased their demand for white rhino horn powder in recent years. Wrongly believed to enhance sexual performance, cure hangovers and even cancer, a growing wealthy class in Asian society have begun to pay more than ever for rhino horns. The result has been a rapid rise in rhino horn poaching in South Africa, culminating in a record rise in 2012, with more than 450 rhinos killed in the country this year already.

Around half of the poaching occurs in the Kruger national park, in the country’s north-west.

News Link:-http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/09/rhino-poacher-40-years-south-africa

Chumlong Lemtongthai is the most senior figure in a smuggling ring ever convicted in South Africa

More Indepth view of trial:-http://mg.co.za/article/2012-11-08-rhino-butchers-caught-on-film

Video of above rhino hunt:-http://www.mg.co.za/multimedia/2012-11-08-inside-a-legal-hunt

Poaching Has Devalued The Rhino

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A fruit and vegetable seller, a fitter, and a driving school instructor arrested while allegedly trying to sell a rhino horn to a police agent, are members of a syndicate trading in protected game in KwaZulu-Natal, according to evidence led in opposing the trio’s bail application.

The Durban Magistrate’s Court also heard on Thursday that poaching had been affecting the sale of rhinos at auctions, knocking R1.5 billion off the value of the national white rhino herd.

For Ref. Only

Judgment has been reserved.

Rajen Moodley, of Phoenix, Sthembiso Luthuli, of Rich-ards Bay, and Samkeliso Sibiya, of Mandeni, were arrested after trying to sell a 6.5kg, metre-long horn for R1.5 million, the court heard.

The horn has been valued at more than R3m. The trio face charges of dealing in and being in possession of a rhino horn.

Detective Warrant Officer Jean-Pierre van Zyl-Roux, in an affidavit, said the men were part of a group involved in dealing in specially protected game, particularly white rhino, in KwaZulu-Natal.

“That the accused have been arrested will not stop the other syndicate members from (pursuing) their criminal activities,” said Van Zyl-Roux. “If the accused were to be released, they would rejoin their colleagues and resume (their) serious criminal activities.”

The trio were arrested by police on March 18 in a sting at Durban’s Battery Beach.

Van Zyl-Roux said the men knew the identities and addresses of the State’s witnesses and could trace, intimidate or harm them. One of the State witnesses had received anonymous, threatening cellphone calls, the court heard.

Criminals

“Rhino killing is on the increase in South Africa. The fact that criminals use violence to commit these crimes has the population living in fear of informing on these criminals,” Van Zyl-Roux said in his affidavit, which was read to the court by prosecutor Krishen Shah.

“Too often poachers fire on game guards or threaten to kill them. (They) have no respect for the lives of the innocent.” The incidence of rhino crimes had so increased that “we are fast approaching the state where extinction of all rhino in the world is a distinct possibility”.

The affidavit referred to the financial effect poaching had on the game industry, requiring the employment of guards and extra security measures.

Van Zyl-Roux said poaching had made owning rhino so unattractive that none of the white and black rhino up for auction in August 2010 had been sold.

“With an estimated 20 000- odd white rhino in South Africa, this decline in average sale value reflects a drop in asset value of the country’s white rhino of R1.5bn,” he said.

Van Zyl-Roux said no permits were issued for the possession or sale of the horn. “This can only mean the accused knew that the possession and sale of the horn were illegal.”

Shah also read out letters from a number of anti-poaching organisations written to the chief magistrate appealing for bail to be denied. Also submitted were petitions opposing bail, from online anti-poaching associations.

Shah said the men had met a police agent at a beachfront hotel and negotiated a price for the sale of the horn. The agent, he said, had asked to see the horn. The men took the agent to their vehicle opposite the old Natal Command site. The horn was on the back seat of the vehicle.

The court heard that Moodley, 44, lived in Redfern, Phoenix, and had a roadside stall in Westside in the suburb. His attorney, Rajendra Nathalal, asked the court not to be swayed by organisations opposed to the men’s being released on bail.

He said the State was not presenting factual evidence.

“Apart from the fact that all three men were arrested together, there is no other evidence to suggest they form part of a syndicate,” he said. He said Moodley, who had previous convictions for drunk driving and culpable homicide, could afford R20 000 for bail.

Luthuli, 34, is the breadwinner for his two children and fiancée. He has worked for Transnet as an electrical fitter for the past seven years.

Sibiya, 47, who supports four children and a fiancée, owns a driving school. He and Luthuli said they could afford R10 000 in bail.

All three men said they intended pleading not guilty. They assured the court they were not a flight risk and did not have relatives across the border.

Magistrate Anita Govender has reserved judgment until May 22.

News link:-http://www.iol.co.za/dailynews/news/poaching-has-devalued-the-rhino-1.1285407

South Africa: No Permits for Vietnamese Rhino Hunters – Molewa

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According to iafrica.com, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said applications for hunting permits would only be accepted from bona fide hunters from countries that ensure horns and hunting trophies are used only in terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) rules.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Vietnam has been asked to verify that white rhino trophies exported from South Africa to Vietnam were still in the possession of the hunters, “the outcome of this process will allow us to refuse all applications for white rhinoceros hunting by foreign hunters [from] Vietnam,” Molewa said.

Times Live reports that Molewa said the number of rhinos poached in South Africa this year stands at an “alarming” 159. “The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of these losses, with the rhinos poached in the park having reached a staggering total of 95,” she said, adding that this is no longer only an environmental management problem. “It has become a matter in which we have involved all law-enforcement agencies.”

Molewa said 90 people had been arrested for poaching as the government was looking at new initiatives in the fight against rhino poaching. This reflected “the coordinated enforcement efforts across the government aimed at addressing the scourge of rhino poaching.” She said the first group of 75 of the 150 new rangers to be deployed in the Kruger Park is currently undergoing a six-week, intense paramilitary training course. The fence on the eastern boundary of the park was too expensive and difficult to maintain, she concluded.

AWF CELEBRATES ANOTHER WHITE RHINO BIRTH!

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Rhino Birth Demonstrates Effectiveness of AWF’s Rhino Conservation Work in Face of Continent’s Ongoing Rhino Crisis

The new rhino calf in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, shown here with its mom, Inonge, shows how AWF’s ongoing technical and field support has direct results in rhino conservation. Photo by Jones Masonde

LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA—African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is celebrating the birth of a white rhino in Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, a major conservation milestone in a region devastated by rampant rhino poaching. Less than three years ago, poachers had killed all but one of Zambia’s rhinos, and AWF assisted Zambia Wildlife Authority in relocating four white rhinos to the park. AWF has also provided ongoing field and technical support to the park to keep the rhinos safe.

This birth marks the third since that relocation, bringing the park’s rhino population to 8. “The birth of one white rhino may not be considered significant, but rhinos have a long gestation and nursing period and only birth a calf once every two to four years,” explains AWF Ecologist Jones Masonde, who leads AWF’s rhino conservation work with Zambia Wildlife Authority. “With such a low birthing rate and with the continued rhino poaching epidemic in southern Africa especially, this birth is actually a very big deal.”

Rhino poaching has reached unprecedented levels in Africa, with 448 being killed throughout the continent in 2011. Rhinos are being targeted for their horn, which some Asian cultures prize for their mythical medicinal properties. (Rhino horn has been proven by scientists to be made of keratin, the same protein found in human hair and nails, and in reality carries no such capabilities.) Already in 2012, more than 80 have been poached, the majority from South Africa.

“This achievement shows that the support that African Wildlife Foundation provides makes a real difference in assisting wildlife authorities’ rhino conservation work,” adds Masonde. “It also offers all of us hope that we might be able to bring the rhino ‘charging back’ from the brink of extinction.”

The calf was born on February 18, 2012, to a cow named Inonge. The father is Fwanya, who was the last rhino in Mosi-oa-Tunya prior to the addition of the four cows in 2009.

 About African Wildlife Foundation For more than 50 years, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) has worked as a leading conservation organization focused solely on the African continent. AWF’s programs and conservation strategies are based on sound science and designed to protect both the wild lands and wildlife of Africa and ensure a more sustainable future for Africa’s people. Since its inception, AWF has protected endangered species and land, promoted partnerships with the private sector for conservation tourism to benefit local African communities as a means to improve livelihoods, and trained hundreds of African nationals in conservation—all to ensure the survival of Africa’s unparalleled wildlife heritage.

AWF is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Kenya and registered as a 501(c)(3) in the United States. http://www.awf.org Contacts: African Wildlife Foundation John Butler jbutler@awf.org

AWF Celebrates Rhino Birth

A Heart for Rhino’s -Interview with Dr Ian Player

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Dr Ian Player – PDF document on life with Rhino’s

Veteran of a previous ‘rhino war’, Dr Ian Player has a special connection with these charismatic animals and is following efforts to combat poaching with great interest. This worldrespected conservationist has valuable insights into how we can tackle the current crisis, and shares
them with Africa Geographic’s Rachel Lang.

Ian_Player.pdf

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Wounded rhino dies after escapes poachers

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Pietermaritzburg – Poachers who slaughtered and dehorned two white rhino in the Ezemvelo-controlled Weenen game reserve this month are also believed to be responsible for the death of a third white rhino.

Reference only - Rhino horn is in big demand.

For reference only - Rhino horn is in big demand.

Its carcass was recovered in the reserve late last week.

The horns of the third rhino were not removed, but investigators established that the animal had been shot and wounded in its shoulder and probably died a slow death after managing to escape from the poachers.

The hunt for the poachers is continuing amid gloomy reports that the toll of rhino poached countrywide this year has risen to 135 already.

The Kruger National Park has lost 75 rhino to poachers since the beginning of the year, department of environmental affairs spokesperson Albi Modise revealed this week. The second highest number of rhino slain by poachers is in KwaZulu-Natal with 18, Limpopo with 17 and the North West Province with 15.

The report said South Africa lost 448 rhino to illegal hunting and trade in rhino horn last year.

Modise said the department was encouraged by an increasing number of arrests and convictions this year to counter rhino poaching. He added that 89 people were arrested for illegal activities involving rhino horns across the country since January.

Colonel Vishnu Naidoo reported that a game reserve manager, Walter Nkuna, 40, who is believed to be linked to rhino poaching, shot and killed himself at Thabazimbi in Limpopo when police began to move in on him this week.

via Wounded rhino dies after escape | News24.

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