Experts Say Zimbabwe Rhino in ‘State of Crisis’

April 16, 2009

Poachers’ Greed Undermining Economic Recovery

YULEE, Fla., April 16 /PRNewswire/ — Leading rhino conservation experts, the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and Save the Rhino, today called the rhino poaching situation in Zimbabwe “an immediate crisis with long-term consequences” and called for concerted action by the Zimbabwe government and international agencies to tackle endangered species poaching and illegal trade in wildlife products.

The groups said continued inaction undermines the country’s economic recovery because rhino poaching threatens one of the key economic pillars for Zimbabwe – ecotourism.

“Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is serious, and it now also is in danger of losing its biological currency – rhinos and other wildlife,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, of the IRF, which funds anti-poaching patrols in five countries. “This high-value biological currency could be a key factor in turning around the economy through ecotourism – if we can act now to ensure it is not lost.”

Poaching of black and white rhinos in Zimbabwe has more than doubled in the past year, with at least 90 animals killed. Poachers have already slaughtered 18 rhinos in 2009. Not a single Zimbabwean poacher has been sentenced in a court during the past three years.

“Most rhino horn is sold on the black market for use to reduce fever in traditional Asian medicine,” said London-based Cathy Dean, from Save the Rhino. “In some Middle Eastern countries, rhino horn is used for ornamental dagger handles – a status symbol procured at a terrible cost.”

Zimbabwe’s economy has all but collapsed. Cholera has killed more than 4,000 people. Fast-track land reformation has decimated its farming industry. Inflation reached 80 billion percent before the Zimbabwean currency had to be abandoned.

According to Raoul du Toit, of Zimbabwe’s Lowveld Rhino Trust, which holds eighty percent of the country’s black rhinos, “We must attach an economic value to rhinos so that local people can be given financial incentives to protect them.”

“We likely will need to move as many as 50-60 rhinos out of at-risk areas in 2009,” said du Toit. “Without intervention, rhinos in some areas will definitely be lost. In the Midlands Conservancy, the black rhino population has declined from 45 a few years ago to five animals now. We don’t want to see those losses repeated elsewhere.”

Visit www.rhinos-irf.org to learn more about the poaching crisis in Zimbabwe.

SOURCE International Rhino Foundation

Source: newswire

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