March 05, 2014
Last week, visitors in Kruger National Park came on a horrifying sight of the poaching trade: a rhino, still alive, with its horn and part of its face chopped off. The gruesome photo of the young rhino went viral and sent South African authorities scrambling. Five days after the sighting, South African National Parks (SANParks) has announced they found the rhino and put it out of its misery.
"An assessment was conducted to determine the extent of the injuries and suffering. It was discovered that a bullet had lodged in the rhino's brain and therefore any chance of survival was slim," said Reynold Thakhuli, Head of Communications, adding, "People must be able to understand that our main task is conservation, but if you look at the pain that it endured we had to end its suffering. Its brain had been affected by the bullet, as well as one eye."
South Africa is in the midst of a rhino poaching epidemic. Last year, the country lost 1,004 rhinos to poachers. This year, already, 146 rhinos have been killed, not counting this most recent individual. At this pace, South Africa is losing more than two rhinos a day on average, worse stats than anywhere else in the world.
Rhinos are killed by criminals for their horns, which are ground up and used in traditional Chinese medicine as a curative. However, scientific research has found that rhino horn has no medicinal value. The consumption of rhino horn is also increasingly seen as a status symbol in places like Vietnam, according to recent studies.
South Africa is home to more rhinos than any other country, including around 19,000 white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) and 2,000 black rhinos (Diceros bicornis), the latter of which is considered Critically Endangered. But even as poaching has boomed in South Africa, some countries have seen more success protecting their populations. For example, Namibia has only experienced a few poaching incidents in recent years, despite being home to around 2,250 rhinos (including both white and black). Meanwhile, Nepal just celebrated a full twelve months without losing a single rhino (or tiger and elephant for that matter). Nepal is home to over 500 Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis), also known as greater one-horned rhinos .
Young rhino whose horn and part of its face cut off by poachers. The animal survived for several days before South African officials found it and put it down. Photo by: Frans Lombard, shared on Facebook.
Video of the mortally wounded rhino. By: Marc Braeckman.
|AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.|
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South Africa loses nearly 150 rhinos to poachers so far this year
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Shoot to conserve: Corey Knowlton's rhino hunt escalates the debate over trophy hunting and environmentalism
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