African Rhinos: The Facts

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2012

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Monday, May 14, 2012

Before we came to Africa we only knew little about Rhinos. But what we did know was that they are endangered. And why you may ask, because poachers get paid to kill the rhino for the their horn for things like Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM). After spending some time in game parks, particularly in Zimbabwe, we got up close and personal with a White Rhino, and learnt the facts about this amazing creature that is heading towards extinction.
In Africa there are a little over 20,000 white Rhinos, and there are less than 5,000 Black Rhinos. Black Rhinos are way more endangered, and Namibia has the highest percentage (40 %) of all Black Rhinos. As recently as 1960, the Black Rhino population was estimated at around 100,000. There were four sub species of Black Rhino in Africa. The South Western, Southern Central, Eastern and West African. The West African Black Rhino which was declared extinct in 2011 due to poaching. There are two sub species of White Rhino in Africa; Northern White Rhino and Southern White Rhino. There are only four Northern White Rhino left and are being carefully monitored by armed guards in Kenya.
Why the dramatic decline you may ask?
In Africa, rhinos are being killed/poached with rapidly increasing numbers of poaching each day and due to this, their population is decreasing dramatically. In game parks it is illegal to identify to the general public each day where rhinos have been sighted, and how many are in the park, as poachers often enter game parks in search of rhinos.
Poaching is illegal, but why does it still continue? In 2007, there were 13 rhinos poached, but in 2011 there was 448 poached. That is more than a 30x increase in only 5 years. In the first 60 days of 2012, 80 rhinos were poached, 43 of which were in Kruger National Park, South Africa alone. These are the figures, and the facts are that penalties are obviously not working. In past years, penalties such as a $6000 fine, 12 months prison, and a maxium penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1.25 millon fine, have been passed down to poachers. The actual poachers and the couriers of rhino poaching are the ones who always get done, but the king pins and consumers who demand the horns for Chinese medicine never get punished.
When we visited Matopos Game Reserve in Zimbabwe near the city of Bulawayo, we were hunting for rhinos. We were not here to poach them, but to get up close with this maginficent creature, before poaching causes their extinction.
With our local guide and rhino expert, we headed to a popular rhino hang out, and were lucky to spot five white rhino in the late afternoon. We creeped closer and closer, getting within 20 metres of one of the rhinos. This particular rhino was named Swazi, a white rhino which had been dehorned to hopefully persuade poachers not to kill him for his horn. We watched and we were mesmarised, yet puzzled why anyone would want to hurt this fascinating creature. We did wonder why rhinos like Swazi were dehorned, but were quickly informed that by dehorning them, poachers are less likely to go after them and kill them, due to the lack of horn. The horns are placed in a warehouse for safe keeping, not sold off for Chinese medicine. It takes about two years for the horn of a rhino to grow back, and in Swazi's case, he would have his horn cut every two years. The fact is poaching is a REAL problem for rhinos.
Solutions and dissuasive measures that are being used to protect the Rhino are; increasing penalties, increasing security, tightening controls at airports, educating the end user of TCM, treating rhino horns with poisons, and dehorning rhinos. Celebrities in China such as Jackie Chan have being trying to educate people against using endangered wildlife products inTCM, including other endangered animals like the tiger. Rhinos horns are also being poisoned, which does not harm the rhino, but makes the horn unusable for TCM as it can harm the consumer. Dehorning is a measure that aims to deter poachers as without a whole horn, the poaching is less profitable and therefore can protect Rhinos. This however does affect the appearance of the Rhino to us, as nobody really wants to see a Rhino without a horn. But, hopefully these measures will prevent the dissapearance of these magnificent creatures.
After we viewed the rhinos, we were then showed evidence of what poaching can result in. We checked out two skeletons of rhinos. One was a black rhino which had died from presumed natural causes. But the white rhino skeleton clearly displayed the evil of poaching. We could clearly make out the bullet holes in the skull, and hack marks from an axe where the horn would have been. Seriously, and for what, so some people can create Chinese medicine, which has been proven to not work. All that rhino horn is made out of is basically the same thing as your hair and fingernails. Shame on you POACHERS and shame on CHINESE MEDICINE.
As we drove out of Matapos Game Reserve, we got thinking about what an amazing experience we just had, being so close to Rhinos in the wild. It did make us wonder though, will we in future be able to bring our children or grandchildren to Africa to see the Rhino, or will they be extinct? That is the question, and the fact is Rhinos are in danger! After all we have seen and experienced with Rhinos, we feel the need to pass on the facts to educate the world and protect this humble, yet magnificent African animal.

Some Non Government Organisations (NGO's) are educating the community against poaching, rehabilitating injuried Rhinos, implementing security and ranger training, undergoing scientific research and recruiting volunteers to help save the African Rhino. Organisations you may wish to research or donate to are;
African Wildlife Foundation
Endangered Wildlife Turst
Forever Wild/Wilderness
Mission Rhino
Save the Rhino International
SOS Rhino

# Facts and figures for this blog entry were taken from Africa Geographic's
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