The illegal trade in rhino horn doesn’t just end in the deaths of thousands of rhinos. Humans, too, often lose their lives in the trade. Both those poaching rhinos and those protecting them, such as park rangers, have been killed in gun battles. But the trade ruins lives in many ways: yesterday, Tommy Fourie, 51, who allegedly sold 36 rhino hunters to a game farmer, shot himself with a hunting rifle in South Africa.
Charged in September, Fourie was recently released on bail. He was scheduled to reappear in court on January 28th, along with the gamer farmer he allegedly sold the horn to: Jacque Els. But, according to News 24, Fourie told a friend over the phone that he was going to end his life and then walked outside to a hill and shot himself.
Rhino poaching has hit a 16-year high in South Africa with over 200 animals killed this year alone.
Although there is no scientific evidence of curative benefits, ground-up rhino horn is used in Asian traditional medicine. Fueled by a trade that is both illegal and underground, last year it was estimated that one kilo of rhino horn was worth approximately $60,000, nearly $20,000 more than a kilo of gold. Poaching, along with habitat loss, has pushed four of the world’s five rhino species toward extinction, three of these species are considered Critically Endangered. There are less than 50 adult Java rhinos in the world and less than 250 adult Sumatran rhinos.
While there have been discussions of legalizing the trade in order to draw down the price of rhino horn and use proceeds for conservation, for now the sale or purchase of rhino horn products is banned worldwide by the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
(10/07/2010) A traditional Chinese medicine businessman has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for attempting to smuggler rhino horn from Vietnam to China, according to Saving Rhinos which has been following the case on ChinaCourt.org.
(09/29/2010) Arief Rubianto, the head of an anti-poaching squad on the Indonesian island of Sumatra best describes his daily life in this way: “like mission impossible”. Don’t believe me? Rubianto has fought with illegal loggers, exchanged gunfire with poachers, survived four days without food in the jungle, and even gone undercover—posing as a buyer of illegal wildlife products—to infiltrate a poaching operation. While many conservationists work from offices—sometimes thousands of miles away from the area they are striving to protect—Rubianto works on the ground (in the jungle, in flood rains, on rock faces, on unpredictable seas, and at all hours of the day), often risking his own life to save the incredibly unique and highly imperiled wildlife of Sumatra.
(07/28/2010) Given the epidemic of rhino poaching across Africa and Asia, which has placed four out of five species in jeopardy of extinction, one fed-up game manager wants to take the fight beyond the poachers to the consumer. Ed Hern, owner of the Lion and Rhino Park near Johannesburg, told South Africa’s The Times that he has begun working with a veterinarian on injecting poison into a rhino’s horn to consumers. He told The Times that people who consumed poisoned rhino horn “would get very sick or die”.