In another sign that the rhino poaching crisis has gone out-of-control, Kenyan officials announced late last night that a pregnant rhino was poached in Nairobi National Park, which sits on the edge of Kenya’s capital. Home to lions, leopard, giraffes and hippos in addition to rhinos, the park is known for its views of iconic wildlife flanked by Nairobi’s skyline.
However, the park’s proximity to a metropolis of three million did not stop a poachers on Friday from brazenly shooting a white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), cutting off its horn, and making a clean getaway. The rhino was discovered later by tourists. This is the first rhino poaching incident in the park in six years.
In total, Kenya has lost 35 rhinos this year to poachers, already besting last year’s toll of 29. South Africa, where the rhino crisis is at its worst, has lost over 550 rhinos so far this year.
Rhinos are being killed en masse for their horns, which are ground into powder for traditional Chinese medicine despite the fact that science has found no medicinal benefits to the concoction.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has recently announced it will set up an elite force to combat poaching problems, dubbed the Elite Inter-Agency Anti-Poaching Unit. However, some experts say that anti-poaching efforts, while hugely important, won’t be enough: more must be done to tackle the demand side in East Asia and the weak penalties poachers and smugglers face.
Of the world’s five rhino species, three are considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. White rhinos are the most populous in the world, but also due to this, the most commonly targeted by poachers.
White rhino in Kenya. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
(07/29/2013) August 27, 1883. It’s been called ‘the day the world exploded’. One hundred and thirty years ago this month, the volcanic island of Krakatau (Krakatoa) blew its top. The smoking mountain had given several days warning to the human inhabitants of Java and Sumatra, the closest large islands, but no one could have imagined the intensity of the eruption and the devastation that followed. Several cubic miles of rock and ash – more than half the island – rocketed skyward. The explosion released over 10,000 times the energy of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and was an order of magnitude more powerful than the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Tsunamis greater than 100 feet high roared over coastal habitats, inundating lowland forests and scouring them of wildlife.
(07/24/2013) In a single night in March, a band of heavily-armed, horse-riding poachers slaughtered 89 elephants in southern Chad, thirty of which were pregnant females. The carnage was the worst poaching incident of the year, but even this slaughter paled in comparison to the 300 elephants killed in a Cameroon park in 2012. Elephant poaching is hitting new records as experts say some 30,000 elephants are being killed every year for their ivory tusks. But the illegal wildlife trade—estimated at $19 billion—is not just decimating elephants, but also rhinos, big cats, great apes, and thousands of lesser-known species like pangolins and slow lorises. This growing carnage recently led to representatives of over 40 zoos and dozens of wildlife programs to call on governments around the world to take immediate action on long-neglected wildlife crime.
(07/03/2013) Barack Obama launched a new initiative against wildlife trafficking on Monday, using his executive authority to take action against an illegal trade that is fueling rebel wars and now threatens the survival of elephants and rhinoceroses. The initiative, announced as the president visited Tanzania on the final stop of his African tour, was the second time in a week Obama has used an executive order to advance environmental policy, after announcing a sweeping new climate change plan.
(07/01/2013) Forensic-dating could end a major loophole in the current global ban on ivory, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Scientists have developed a method to determine the age of ivory, allowing traders to tell the difference between ivory taken before the ban in 1989, which is still legal, and recently-poached ivory.
(06/12/2013) Karman Lubis’s body was found near where he had been working on a Sumatran rubber plantation. His head was found several days later a mile away and they still haven’t found his right hand. He had been mauled by a Sumatran tiger that has been living in Batang Gadis National Park and he was one of five people killed there by tigers in the last five years.
(05/29/2013) The Kenyan parliament has approved emergency measures to tackle the on-going poaching crisis: last week Kenyan MPs approved legislation that should lead to higher penalties for paochers. The emergency measure passed just as Kenya Wildlife Service’s (KWS) is pursuing a gang of poachers that slaughtered four rhinos over the weekend. Both rhinos and elephants have suffered heavily as poaching has escalated in Kenya and beyond.
(05/23/2013) A private safari company has moved six white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) from their home in South Africa to Botswana in a bid to save them from an out-of-control poaching crisis in their native land. Currently, around two rhinos are killed everyday in South Africa for their horns, which are then smuggled to East Asia.
(05/22/2013) Prince Charles has warned that criminal gangs are turning to animal poaching, an unprecedented slaughter of species that can only be stopped by waging war on the perpetrators, in the latest of a series of increasingly outspoken speeches about the environment. Addressing a conference of conservationists at St James’s Palace in London, the Prince of Wales announced a meeting of heads of state to take place this autumn in London under government auspices to combat what he described as an emerging, militarized crisis.
(05/15/2013) A new study argues for treating endangered Sumatran populations in Borneo and Sumatra as ‘a single conservation unit’, lending academic support to a controversial proposal to move wild rhinos from Malaysia to Indonesia.