Rhino poaching has hit a fifteen-year high, and the rising price for black-market rhino horn is likely the reason why. For the first time in a decade rhino horn is worth more than gold: a kilo of rhino horn is worth approximately 60,000 US dollars while a kilo of gold is a little over 40,600 US dollars.
Eighty-four rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa this year alone, while Zimbabwe recently announced it has lost 300 rhinos in just three years, a quarter of the entire nation’s rhino population. Poaching has also occurred in India and Nepal where rhino populations are much smaller than Africa.
“Increased demand for rhino horn, alongside a lack of law enforcement, a low level of prosecutions for poachers who are actually arrested and increasingly daring attempts by poachers and thieves to obtain the horn is proving to be too much for rhinos and some populations are seriously declining,” Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, said in July when the poaching crisis became clear.
Rhino horn has been used in traditional Asian medicines for thousands of years, but scientific studies have found no proof that the horn is an effective medicine.
Of the world’s five remaining rhino species, three are classified as Critically Endangered, the IUCN Red List’s most dire category, these incldue the Javan, Sumatran, and black rhino. The white rhino is considered Near Threatened and the Indian rhino, Vulnerable.
In 2006 it was announced that the West African black rhino had likely gone extinct. A survey found that this subspecies of the black rhino had vanished from its last range in Northern Cameroon, a victim of its horns.
(09/10/2009) In July national parks in South Africa lost 26 white rhinos and one black rhino to poachers, bringing the total rhinos lost to in South Africa to 84 this year alone. The situation has led Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica to call for an integrative approach to the crisis.
(07/09/2009) Rhino poaching rates have hit a 15-year-high as a consequence of demand for horns for use in traditional medicine, according to new report published by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC. Asia-based criminal gangs run the illegal trade.
(11/06/2006) Rhinoceros horns have long been objects of mythological beliefs. Some cultures prize them for their supposed magical or medicinal qualities. Others have used them as dagger handles or good luck charms. But new research at Ohio University removes some of the mystique by explaining how the horn gets its distinctive curve and sharply pointed tip.