The white rhino (Ceratotherium simum), has a population of around 20,000 individuals. They are on the ICUN Redlist Classification as Near threatened. With a population of only 4,880 individuals the black rhino (Diceros bicornis), is much more threatened. The black rhinos are on the ICUN Redlist Classification as Critically Endangered.
Why do People Poach Rhinos?Rhino horn is used in traditional Eastern medicine and in countries such as Yemen as Decorative items such as dagger handles. This grew in the 1970's and is worn as a status symbol. In recent years the value of rhinos horns has increased rapidly and the benefits to poachers far outweigh the risks of getting caught.
There is no scientific proof whatsoever that it has any medicinal value. It is either ground up into a fine powder or made into tablets. Its used for treatment of: Nosebleeds, Strokes, Convulsions, Fevers and even Cancer.
They have advanced technologies such as: night vision scopes, Silenced Weapons, Darting equipment, Helicopters, veterinary equipment. Some can be rather barbaric, by even putting poison into carcasses to not attract attention by vultures, or will just not kill them and cut off their horn and leave them alive.
Value & Consequences
It is worth more per kilo than cocaine. If caught with cocaine you will go to jail for a few years, whereas if you're caught with rhino horn, you are most likely going to get away with it. The number of people arrested is less than half of the recorded poachings and even less than that were actually convicted. This shows that there is a much higher incentive for poachers to do this as there aren't as many negative repercussions.
How's it being stopped?
First things first, Its ILLEGAL! Although that doesn't seem to be stopping a lot of these people. Security and monitoring is also being improved as well as the protected areas being expanded and their management improved. penalties are becoming more frequent and more severe. Public awareness; I'm sure you've seen adverts for the WWF and Save the Rhino, whether its on the TV or on the internet.
Legalisation the answer?
Could legalisation be the answer to stopping the number of rhinos being poached increasing even more? Well, the current ban obviously isn't working as well as it should be. By flooding the market, it would then decrease the value of them and so lowering the incentive for poachers to kill them in the first place. This in turn would then take the control away from criminal syndicates.
This could then increase the demand for the horns. It would be wrong to support the legal trade of the product and to try and dispel traditional beliefs at the same time. Also, how would it be legalised? If you cut off their horns in a humane way then it would still cause problems as they place a part in mating and dominance. Farming could also cause problems ethically.
What Can You Do?
Overall the populations of both black and white rhinos are growing, even if the numbers being poached is increasing. This means that the birth rate is higher than the mortality rate. Although they are still Critically Endangered. The rapid escalation in poaching is UNSUSTAINABLE! Unless something is done and this is stopped then the population could start to decline again.
To do you're bit to help, to adopt a rhino or to simply find out a bit more information about these lovely creatures head over to any of the following websites: