Rhino poaching had risen from 13 cases in 2007 to a record 333 last year. Nearly 200 rhinos were killed in the first half of 2011.
In March this year the South African government deployed 140 troops in 16 temporary bases in the Sabi River valley where two-thirds of rhino killings have occurred.
Since then, the number of rhinos killed in The Kruger has dropped from 40 in March and 30 in April to 15 in May and just two in June. No rhinos were poached in July. Let me say that again — none. Fifteen alleged poachers have been killed, and nine suspects wounded in gunfights with the army, according to Brigadier General Koos Liebenberg.
Enforcement chief of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, John M. Sellar says: “Aside from Central and South America, every region of the world appears to be affected by criminals who are fraudulently acquiring rhinoceros horns.”
In addition to the widely held belief that it is an aphrodisiac, rhino horn powder is used as treatment for fever in traditional Chinese medicine. According to researchers the recent surge in poaching is partly driven by an emerging belief in Vietnam that rhino horn cures cancer.
In a major breakthrough last month Police arrested a Thai national accused of organising rhinoceros hunts to acquire rhino horn for the international black market.
Investigators say that an international wildlife trafficking syndicate hired Thai prostitutes and strippers from South African nightclubs in Pretoria and Midrand to pose as “hunters” in so-called rhino trophy “hunts.” This was done to circumvent Permit regulations that allow a hunter to shoot only one rhino a year.
These “legally” acquired rhino horns, costing around R65 000 per kilogram ($10,000 per kg) locally, would be shipped from South Africa to South-East Asia where they fetch up to $35,000 per kilogram in traditional medicine shops.
Paul Jennings, an anti-poaching activist with Rights for Rhinos, has high praise for the recent introduction of DNA technology in the fight against poaching. He said that if every rhino, not just in the country, but on the continent, were to get tagged, poachers would definitely think twice before shooting.
In the Kruger at least, the slaughter of rhinos has been halted by the South African Army.
Source: News 24