Ujuzi will expand its tour offerings in the second half of 2014 to include South Africa, a country rich in unique wildlife and home to almost half of the continent’s rhinos. Unfortunately, the abundance of wildlife has attracted the attention of international crime syndicates, who profit from selling rare animal parts on the black market. I recently ran across this sobering article about an increase in rhino poaching in the country.
Poachers kill rhinos for their horns, which are worth more than their weight in gold in Southeast Asia. Rhino horn is a traditional medicine in that part of the world, where it’s thought to cure a variety of ailments despite modern science showing its ineffectiveness. Rhino horns have also been used to make cups, dagger handles and other ornamental items, but this use is less common now.
If poaching continues increasing at current rates, South Africa’s Environmental Affairs ministry estimates that the country’s wild rhino population could disappear by 2025. Other countries are also affected by poaching. In Kenya, the rhino population has dropped from tens of thousands to about 1,200.
However, many African countries are making a concerted effort to clamp down on poaching with improved training for wildlife rangers and by using drones and other new technologies to monitor national parks. On the demand side, Vietnamese government officials and wildlife organizations have committed to tougher enforcement of anti-poaching laws and educating consumers about the uselessness of rhino horns as medicine. China has recently increased penalties on those who import or sell poached rhino horns.