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The History Of Poaching Rhinos History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

As one of the last surviving species of mega fauna, the white rhino is distinctively known by its square shaped lip that enables it to graze. At the end of 2007, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that there were 17 480 of these animals left, causing them to be classified as near threatened. In the past 3 years, South Africa has suffered the tragic loss of 93 white rhinos. (Source A: )

These animals are commonly hunted for their horns, despite the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) having declared any trade in rhino parts for commercial reasons illegal. Thus hunters have resorted to poaching both white and black rhinos, often using high-tech weapons and helicopters to achieve their means. (Source E:

In the case of professional poachers, the following takes place. First, the rhinos are shot from the air using a low-noise weapon, for example a crossbow. The poachers then land and remove both horns; sometimes the rhinoceros is still alive but severely wounded when this happens. Before rangers have realised what’s happened, the poachers are in the air again.

A white rhino killed for its horns in the Kruger National Park.


The majority of white rhino poaching incidents in South Africa take place in the Kruger National Park (KNP), but it is unknown what the exact statistics are.

A map of South Africa indicating the various biomes. The reserve is found roughly within the red lines.

The Northern Half of the reserve is home to the savannah biome, characterised by longer grasses and woody plants . This makes KNP the perfect habitat for the white rhino, a grazer. The park is world-renowned and a proud South African tourist attraction, however this not enough to create awareness about the importance of white rhino conservation.

A map of the Kruger National Park and its national borders

This part of the reserve also shares an Eastern Border with Mozambique, home to nearly all of the poachers arrested in 2009. (Source C:

The bigger picture:

In 2007 13 Rhinos were poached in South Africa. In 2009 93 Rhinos were poached in South Africa. The problem, as stated by Source B, is that the killing spree “is no longer opportunistic poaching by individuals but carried out by…highly sophisticated criminal gangs.”(

This source goes on to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Asian countries: “commercial rhino poaching has become a well-oiled machine – and the ‘new Asian wealth’ is bankrolling the slaughter.” However, this does not investigate the poachers themselves.

By July 2009 the South African National Parks (SAN Parks) reported that 32 white rhinos had been poached in the Kruger Park. Of these, 28 had been killed along the Mozambican border. Every single one of the 14 suspects arrested are Mozambican citizens. (Source C:

Source D goes on to say that law enforcement officials in Mozambique are not doing enough to stop the poaching. “Not a single poacher arrested in Mozambique for killing a rhino has gone through the full process prescribed by conservation law.” The article reports that not a single poacher arrested by Kruger Park officials was jailed for longer than two weeks. In one incident, poachers responsible for trade in R1,5 million were fined a mere R1250 and released. In another case, a poacher with “a freedom-fighting history and close ties with politicians and police” was released from prison without a fine, one week after being arrested in KNP. (

From 1977 to 1992 Mozambique fell into a civil war that crippled its economy and left its people impoverished.

Graph 1: Mozambique’s annual GDP in relation to that of Southern Africa, and Africa as a whole.

With a Gross Domestic Product of just over $1000 Purchasing Power Parity (USD PPP), it comes as no surprise that Mozambicans would resort to poaching, or that the legal system is too weak to prosecute them. However, it is possible that many would prefer the illegal trade in rhino horn to honest work.

As part of the anti-poaching initiative in Kenya, this pile of ivory and rhino horn was burnt to create public awareness

At November 25, 2009, the black market value of rhino horn was officially greater than that of gold, as stated in Source G ( .

Table 1: Approximate Black Market values of rhino horn and gold per kilogram at November 2009


Price ($) per kilogram (kg)


60 000

Rhino horn

40 600

However, it is important to note that fault can also be found with South Africans.

2008 Minister of Environmental Affairs, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, announced that individuals with valid hunting permits were abusing their permits to trade illegally in rhino horn. As stated in Source F:

“During investigations into rhino horn deals, enforcement officials had found that prospective hunters had applied for permits to hunt rhino in various provinces, and these had subsequently been issued. But the hunts had never taken place and the relevant authorities had never been informed.” ( “″&HYPERLINK “″click_id=139HYPERLINK “″&HYPERLINK “″art_id=vn20080609114119227C941799)

The article goes on to quote Democratic Alliance (DA) environmental spokesperson Gareth Morgan in saying that “the South African Government is still not taking sustainable development seriously.” ( “″&HYPERLINK “″click_id=139HYPERLINK “″&HYPERLINK “″art_id=vn20080609114119227C941799)

Furthermore, in conducting this report I have come to realise that most South Africans view poaching as something of the past or something limited to North Africa and Asia. Thus the plight of the white rhino has largely fallen on deaf ears. The ignorance of the people who stand to lose the most has proven a greater threat to white and black rhinos than poachers.

Main concerns:


Southern white rhinos are killed with immense cruelty. Before colonisation it was the traditional practice amongst most African tribes to respect wild life, this was emphasised by using every part of an animal that was hunted. Today, the world only takes a stand when “cute” wild animals or domestic animals are abused.

Furthermore, the flippancy with which poachers break the law suggests complete disregard for animal life. As stated by Source D: “many suspects are repeat offenders.” (


The extreme black market value of rhino horn proves that this is a scarce commodity. However, this only seems to increase demand and frequency of poaching.

In addition, SAN Parks pledged R5,2 million to anti-poaching strategies within KNP (Source C: As the situation escalates, greater donations will be required which could prove to be a set back while the world recovers from the economic recession.


The failure of Mozambican authorities to prosecute poachers has instilled doubt in the poverty-stricken country. Relations between South Africa and this neighbour have become clouded with suspicion as KNP game rangers suspect severe corruption within the Mozambican legal system. (Source D:


A northern species of white rhino is feared extinct. Black rhinos are near extinct. How long before there are no more of these amazing creatures are left in the world?

Who plays the largest roles?

The rangers of the Kruger National Park, the World Wildlife Foundation International (WWF), the IUCN, TRAFFIC (affiliated wildlife trade monitoring network of the IUCN), CITES, the Saving Rhinos initiative, the Rhino Conservation initiative, and the South African Police Services (SAPS) have thus far played the greatest role in physically protecting the southern white rhino and creating awareness regarding the poaching crisis.

(Source E:

However, this will not be enough without the co-operation and support of the South African public. Furthermore, more efforts such as this one by the Saving Rhinos initiative should be made in Asia:

An advertisement by the Saving Rhinos initiative aimed at educating the public.

Co-operation and support is also needed from animal rights organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Governments of Mozambique, Vietnam, The People’s Republic of China and Thailand in order to destroy the market for rhino horn.

Solutions currently in place:

According to Source A, current Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica has overseen the implementation of the following “sustainable steps” to prevent poaching in KNP:

The addition of 58 rangers in the park, bringing the total number to 350

19 Motorbikes have been purchased for the rangers for use in patrols

The purchase of high-tech night vision equipment for use by SAN Parks Air Service

The addition of an ultra-light aircraft for use in patrols

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has taken over from the South African Police Service (SAPS) in patrolling the Mozambique/ KNP border.

( )

Solutions that should be in considered:

At this stage Mozambican poachers arrested on their national soil are not efficiently prosecuted, thus poachers should be arrested and prosecuted in South Africa as far as possible.

Brian Jones of Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has said from experience that South Africans living around KNP feel very protective over “their” wildlife. Furthermore, the locals are very passionate about bringing an end to poaching. By employing these locals as rangers and Border Patrol Officials, SAN Parks will not only be reducing unemployment statistics (even if only minimally) but getting the public involved where they often turn a blind eye.

Imploring the Governments of Asian countries to educate their people about the effect of rhino poaching and the truth behind the “medicinal values” of rhino horn.



Kruger Park loses more rhinos

2010-02-26 22:09

Cape Town – Eight more white rhinos have been killed by poachers in the Kruger National Park, despite the deployment of high-tech equipment and extra rangers at so-called “hot spots” within the flagship reserve.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said “eight white rhinos, two impalas and a zebra” were poached in January this year, compared to “seven white rhinos, two impalas and one kudu” during the same month the year before.

Her reply contains details of “sustainable steps taken” to curb poaching in the park that includes:

– the deployment of 58 new field rangers – taking the total number of rangers to 350 – to poaching hot spots;

– the purchase of 19 motorbikes to help with patrols;

– the acquisition of new night-vision equipment for use by crew of the SANParks Air Service unit’s two helicopters; and

– the purchase of another ultra-light aircraft, bringing the total to two, for use in anti-poaching operations. The air service unit also has three fixed-wing aircraft.

Dramatic rise

Sonjica said the SA National Defence Force would take over from the SA Police Service in patrolling the park’s international border with Mozambique “during the later part” of this year.

Over the past two years, the number of rhinos poached in the Kruger, and in other reserves around the country, has risen dramatically.

On January 22, SANParks chief executive officer David Mabunda said in a statement that at least 14 rhinos had been poached since the start of the year, seven in the Kruger and seven in the North West.

This brought the total number of rhinos killed in the past three years to 93. There had been 48 arrests made over this period.

Mabunda said at the time that plans to bring the military to patrol the Kruger’s border with Mozambique were at an advanced stage.




14 Oct 09

Commercial Rhino Poaching Thrives in South Africa, Thanks to Asian Demand for Rhino Horn

Well-funded poaching syndicates are cashing in on Asia’s demand for rhino horn – and jeopardizing decades of rhino conservation efforts in South Africa.

The reason behind the current 15-year high in rhino poaching is no longer a mystery or “baffling” to experts: It is fueled by the insatiable demands of a newly affluent – and increasing – population in Asia.

Commercial rhino poaching has become a well-oiled machine – and the “new Asian wealth” is bankrolling the slaughter.

Today’s rhino poachers

Heavily funded, politically connected, and well-armed, today’s rhino poachers use helicopters to fly into Africa’s game reserves to kill rhino with the latest high-powered weapons.

In a recent Guardian article, chief executive of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Yolan Friedmann, said the average number of rhino killed has skyrocketed from 10 to 100 yearly.

There has been a rampant increase in South Africa. Poaching figures for this year have already surpassed the whole of last year. It’s probably the worst it’s been for 15 years. There’s a lot more money going into poaching and it’s becoming more hi-tech. It’s no longer just a man with a bow and arrow wading through the bush. These guys are using helicopters and AK-47 rifles.

Despite the once successful Save the Rhino project, rhinos are under siege. South Africa is facing a crisis. We’ve done extremely well in rhino conservation, but something has changed in the past 18 months, there’s an insatiable appetite for rhino horn in the far east.

Cathy Dean, director of Save the Rhino International, says in the article that the surge in poaching is a threat to years of hard-earned success in rhino conservation.

The gains of the last decade are in real jeopardy. The underlying concern is that this upsurge in rhino poaching – a major issue in Zimbabwe as well as South Africa – is no longer opportunistic poaching by individuals but carried out by … highly sophisticated criminal gangs.

So far this year, 84 rhino have been killed in South Africa. In 2007, the number was 13.

Unfortunately, commercial rhino poaching has become widespread: Zimbabwe’s rhino population is also suffering at the hands of a politically connected poaching cartel that fulfills “orders” from Chinese nationals for rhino horn.

And illegal killing isn’t the only way rhino horn enters Asia’s flourishing endangered species marketplace.



Escalated anti poaching actions starting to yield results

South African National Parks (SANParks) announced earlier this months that more poachers have been apprehended in recent weeks due to the increased efforts to stamp down on poaching of rhino and other high value wildlife in the Kruger National Park. In July 2009 SANParks announced that the organisation had lost 26 white rhino and one black rhino to poaching and an added 10.3kg of rhino horn through a violent robbery in the Addo Elephant National Park.

“It is with sadness that we announce that since our announcement at the end of July we have lost a seven white rhino to poachers. However, the greatest news to come out of these despicable activities is that SANParks has since apprehended another six suspected rhino poachers and the recovery of five illegal firearms,” said Dr David Mabunda, the chief executive of SANParks.

The new arrests bring the number of arrested suspects to 14, with 11 recovered illegal firearms. Dr Mabunda said that what is alarming about this information is that of the 33 rhinos (including 1 black rhino) poached this year 28 of them were illegally killed along the eastern boundary with Mozambique and all the 14 suspects arrested thus far were of Mozambican origin.

‘We intend to increase our efforts even more in ensuring that this scourge is routed out. Discussions have been started with Mozambican authorities to solicit their assistance in apprehending suspects and preventing illegal activities from proliferating on their side of the fence,” said Dr Mabunda.

SANParks has pledged a sum of R5.2 million from its Park Development Fund which is aimed at improving anti-poaching interventions in the KNP. The funds are being used for increasing the number of field rangers by 57 people as well as buying more vehicles and a state of the Crime Information Management System.



Rhino carnage continues

YOLANDI GROENEWALD – Jan 15 2009 05:00

The illegal slaughter of at least 12 rhinos over the festive season brings the number of the animals poached in South Africa in the past year close to 100. The rising death toll comes amid allegations that Mozambican authorities are not doing enough to crack down on known suspects and, in some cases, might be abetting the poachers.

Another two rhino deaths in Mpumalanga have been reported but not confirmed – some game reserves are reluctant to comment on such killings. If the figure is correct it would put the unofficial death toll of rhinos poached in South Africa since January last year at 96. The dead animals include critically endangered black rhinos.

An Mpumalanga ranger who has tracked poaching across South Africa’s border into Mozambique said the country’s law enforcement failures were contributing to the problem.

“Not a single poacher arrested in Mozambique for killing a rhino has gone through the full process prescribed by the conservation law,” the investigator said. “Unfortunately, the Mozambican legislation cannot deal with modern poaching methods and this is being exploited by the poaching lords.”

He said many suspects are repeat offenders who simply return to poaching. And even if they point out their handlers the handlers can simply pay a fine if they are ever arrested.

No poachers arrested in Mozambique for offences in the Kruger park and Mozambique’s Sabie Game Park have been jailed for longer than two weeks. “This includes offenders who have been apprehended twice for similar offences,” the investigator said.

A report he has drawn up reveals that poachers killed at least 43 rhinos between January 2004 and July 2008 in the Kruger park and around its border. Though the Kruger park would not provide official figures, the Mail & Guardian understands that more than 40 rhinos were shot there between January and the end of November last year.

In many cases Mozambicans, allegedly employed by Vietnamese syndicates operating out of South Africa, are the prime suspects. The syndicates are said to provide their local recruits with high-calibre weapons. Crossbows are also used because they are silent.

The investigator said that a community leader from Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park had shot rhinos in the Kruger National Park on three different occasions. Kruger law enforcers pursued him into Mozambique, where he was arrested each time, but on all three occasions the cases were either not finalised or no sentence was given.

When the poacher tried his luck a fourth time he was apprehended on South African soil. The investigator said that South Africa’s laws should ensure that he is taken “out of the poaching system”.

In another case in 2007 five rhinos were shot on the border of the Kruger park, in Mozambique. A task team comprising the Mozambican border police and staff from Kruger and Sabie Game Park arrested two suspects along with high-calibre weapons, the tracking equipment and binoculars. The investigator said the suspects and the evidence were handed over to the police commander in Moamba, Mozambique.

But the investigator also sent letters about the case to the national government in Maputo because he felt Moamba police had bungled previous cases. In addition, he met with police leaders in Maputo and raised the lack of detective competency in Moamba. Despite his efforts, he said, the two suspects were simply fined R1 250 and released.

“The fine should have been at least R1,5-million if it was properly investigated and proper channels followed,” he said. “The horns were worth at least R1,5-million.”

The investigator said he suspected that some of the police in Moamba were corrupt and actually assisted the poachers. In one case the name of the poachers’ handler was obtained and the man was arrested. But the suspect has a freedom-fighting history and close ties with politicians and the police, the investigator said. Within one week he was released and South African investigators believe he did not even pay a fine.

The Mozambican police had not responded to emailed questions by the time of going to print. Carlos Come, a director in the Mozambican police, merely commented that joint commissions between South Africa and Mozambique had been put in place to help Mozambique with its challenges.

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