Rhino Horn, 2010: an update

In what has created an uproar among Krugerpark.com Facebook fans and other conservationists, it was announced on Tuesday that a further three rhinos have been confirmed poached in the Kwa-Zulu Natal area over a four day period (read the full story here: http://n24.cm/e6m8SL). Here is an update and some analysis on some of the major events concerning this tragic trend in the past few months:Wildlife organisation Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife detailed this week's tragic discovery on Tuesday, CEO Bandile Mkize stating, "Field rangers discovered the de-horned carcass of a young adult male white rhino in the southern area of the Western Shores of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (on November 26th, last Friday)". Rangers in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park then discovered two more white rhino carcasses on Monday, bringing the total of poached rhinos, country wide, to 289 this year. 2009's year-end total for poached rhinos in Africa was tallied at 120.Livestock murder such as this is often brazen and very swift, the entire process being completed before park rangers or rhino owners have any idea something has happened. Further frustration comes with the high prices paid to purchase and maintain these animals - a recent find at a KZN game reserve brought up two white breeding rhinos, killed under the cover of dark on the same night, and worth a combined total of R1 350 000 rand. No arrests were made.

An increased sense of urgency has crept into the South African national consciousness with regards to this mounting issue - public outcry has been great, and parks have officially requested the assistance of the SANDF in patrolling and regulating park security. Comments from park officials have put this conflict at the same level as the South African fight against violent crime in metropolitan areas, with forensic investigators being called in to examine crime scenes such as Dawie Groenewald's Musina farm, where it was recently discovered that a rhino poaching syndicate had been working to kidnap, then slaughter the docile animals. The eleven accused appeared in court for the first time this September, were released on bail, and will be reappearing next May.51 year old suspected rhino poacher Tommy Fourie was found dead in early November of this year, a suicide committed, many people feel, in fear of his impending January 2011 court date. Fourie is alleged to have sold thirty six rhino horns to Thabazimi game farmer, Jacques Els, and the two were expected to appear together.While it is obvious that arrests are being made, the staggering number of confirmed poachings over the course of this year has led many to ask if there is enough being done. The threat to rhinos is double edged, however - of the eleven alleged Musina syndicate members, two are well known veterinarians from the area, thought to have masterminded the entire plot. With ties and influences stretching out into medical (or perhaps administrative) fields of park management, it's tragically clear why so many cases of poaching are so well orchestrated, and why some fly completely under the radar.

South African conservation specialists and park officials recently convened in Vietnam to discuss curbing the illegal trade in rhinoceros horns, and the challenges this presents. Typically used in traditional medicines and remedies, the horn itself fetches a high price on the underground market, and it has become clear that an illegal trade route has been established between the two countries in order to facilitate this market. Officials from both countries agreed, at the meeting, that collaborative law enforcement is crucial to the effort against poachers, and have pledged themselves to an increased presence both in parks and along borders.One thing is certain - with the end of 2010 fast approaching, park officials, guests, and wildlife enthusiasts will be watching the headlines, and holding out for a calm transition into the new year for this quickly thinning species.

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