July 9, 2009

Rhino Poaching At 15-Year High

Rhino poaching is expected to hit its highest levels in 15 years due to increased demand for the animals' horns in Asia, according to conservationists.

"Rhinos are in a desperate situation," according to Heather Sohl of the World Wildlife Fund.

"This is the worst rhino poaching we have seen in many years and it is critical for governments to stand up and take action to stop this deadly threat to rhinos worldwide. It is time to crack down on organized criminal elements responsible for this trade, and to vastly increase assistance to range countries in their enforcement efforts."

WWF was joined by conservation entities International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Traffic in presenting a report on the status of rhino poaching activity to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva.

The report noted that rhino deaths in southern Africa have increased four-fold in recent years, said BBC News.

The report estimated that three rhinos were killed each month from 2000-2005 out of a population of about 18,000. However, they now estimate that 12 rhinos are being illegally killed each month in South Africa and Zimbabwe alone.

"Illegal rhino horn trade to destinations in Asia is driving the killing, with growing evidence of Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai nationals in the illegal procurement and transport of rhino horn out of Africa," according to the report.

According to WWF's Web site, very few rhinos exist outside of protected national parks and reserves due to illegal trade in horn.

Among the five species of rhino, three are found in Asia - Javan, Sumatran and Indian - and two reside in Africa - black rhino and white rhino.

"There are success stories," said WWF. "The southern white rhino and the Indian rhino are thriving in well-protected sanctuaries, and their numbers are increasing.

"Indeed, southern white rhinos were once thought to be extinct, but are now classified as Near Threatened. Black rhinos, too, have increased during the past ten years, but total numbers are still a fraction of what they were fifty years ago."

"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," said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC.

The report recommends that governments should seek "an accurate and up-to-date picture of the status, conservation and trade in African and Asian rhinoceroses, as well as the factors driving the consumption of rhinoceros horn, so that firm international action can be taken to arrest this immediate threat to rhinoceros populations worldwide."


On the Net: