- Legislators, State Representatives, President Of The United States
Unless the current trajectory of rhino poaching is considerably reversed, the current positive growth in the rhino population is going to turn negative by 2013.
The horrors of the assault on South Africa's rhino population reached a new level this week when a rhino grave, containing the carcasses of 17 rhinos, was discovered in the Letaba Ranch provincial park, a reserve run by the Limpopo provincial government (see report). The reserve is alongside South Africa's premier national park, the Kruger Park, and there is no boundary fence, thus allowing the free flow of animals between these two protected areas. It is therefore plausible that rhinos from the Kruger Park have been killed in Letaba.
Notwithstanding an investigation by Limpopo officials, I have today written to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs asking her to instigate an inquiry as well into who is responsible for these poaching incidents and how it is possible that this rhino grave could have gone unnoticed for so long. The fact that the grave is close to the Kruger, should be of specific concern to the national Minister, as SANParks, which runs Kruger, reports to her Department.
The assault on South Africa's rhino population has been relentless during 2010. In fact, this year has been an annus horribilis' for conservation in South Africa, with approximately 270 rhinos killed thus far. While law enforcement officials have made many high-profile arrests, the demand for rhino horn is insatiable, which means that the emergence of new poachers is a constant threat. Unless the current trajectory of rhino poaching is considerably reversed, the current positive growth in the rhino population is going to turn negative by 2013.
The question does need to be asked whether, in the case of the Letaba, any employees of the state were involved in poaching. How could no one have discovered this grave previously, if it was not for the possibility that staff may have turned a blind eye to goings-on in the park, or at worst, may have been actively involved in these acts of poaching? Alternatively, there has been such a considerable dereliction of duty in this provincial park that staff do not even patrol the park and have lost control of what happens in the park. Either way, employees of the state need to be held accountable.
The lack of security in Letaba Ranch directly threatens the Kruger Park. The Minister, who is new to her job, needs to investigate, hold her provincial counterparts to account, and must send a strong signal that she will take a tougher stance on rhino poaching than her predecessor ever did. Most importantly, she needs to reassure the public that she is going to win the war against rhino poachers.
We, the undersigned, petition to ban the sale and trade of rhino horns!
One of the most worrying aspects of the poaching crisis in South Africa is that the rate of poaching has increased dramatically even during 2010. In fact, this year has been an annus horribilis' for conservation in South Africa, with approximately 270 rhinos killed thus far. From January-October overall, the daily rate of rhino poaching is 0.82 animals per day. However, if you look just at the period since 1 September, the daily rate is 1.24 animals per day. While law enforcement officials have made many high-profile arrests, the demand for rhino horn is insatiable, which means that the emergence of new poachers is a constant threat. Unless the current trajectory of rhino poaching is considerably reversed, the current positive growth in the rhino population is going to turn negative by 2013.
Preventing poaching is only one half of the problem. How do we reduce the demand for rhino horn?
Some say that we, the conservation community, should try to change attitudes in China, Vietnamand other user countries: explain that rhino horn doesn't actually work as medicine, or encourage a younger generation that using Traditional Chinese Medicine is old-fashioned, and that they are better off using Western medicine. But with limited resources, large populations and centuries of tradition, we could end up spending large sums and have no impact.
Others are calling for the legalisation of the trade in rhino horn. The problem for rhino managers at the moment whether in charge of the country's National Parks or Game Reserves, or those with wildlife on private or community land is that rhinos are incredibly expensive to protect, and may even now be seen as liabilities. Being able to sell horn, whether from stockpiles of horn (from natural mortalities, dehorning operations or recovered from poachers) would, they argue, generate income for the wildlife industry. There may be merit in this, but we simply do not yet know enough to make an informed decision on whether rhino horn trade would be a good thing. Would supply be able to keep up with demand? How would the market be able to differentiate between legal sources of horn and illegal ones? What are the mechanisms and institutions that would ensure that revenues from rhino horn trade would be reinvested in rhino conservation? There is a lot of work to be done before any legalization proposals can be assessed seriously.
The African Rhino Specialist Group is meeting 4-11 March 2011, and we expect coordinated and costed proposals to tackle rhino poaching at international level to emerge out of those discussions. Meanwhile, we continue to support rhino conservation programmes in Kenya,Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa (as well as in India and Indonesia), and you can donate to their anti-poaching efforts via our website by clicking here.
The Support Anti-Poaching Efforts For Rhinos: TAKE ACTION! petition to Legislators, State Representatives, President Of The United States was written by Ruth McD and is in the category Animal Welfare at GoPetition.