According to the World Wildlife Fund, international criminals are financing the poaching of the rhinos in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The high demand for the rhino horn is driving the illegal trade, which now endangers the species. During the first half of this year, about 200 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Last year, 333 rhinoceroses were killed.
The situation in Kenya isalso said to be bad. The country lost 12 rhinos in 2009. However, what is more worrying is that the rising number of rhino deaths is said to be as a result of the high-tech weaponry that the poachers are using.
This is where the global financiers of the illegal trade come in as they have the resources to equip the poachers with sophisticated weaponry and equipment to carry out their hideous tasks. For example in South Africa, poachers use aircraft to hunt and kill rhinos.
Demand for the rhino horn in Asia is very high. Conservationists estimate that a rhino horn fetches about $54,000 a kilogramme. A horn weighs between 2.9 to 3.7 kilogrammes. In some Asian countries like China and Vietnam, it is believed that the horn has medicinal value, which drives the demand. We should also not forget that it is not just the rhino that is endangered by the poachers.
Elephants are also on their sights as demand for ivory is also rising tremendously. In Kenya for example, data shows that 47 elephants were killed by poachers in 2007, the number rose to 145 in 2008 and 216 in 2009. . In 2010, 28,000 elephant tusks were recovered.
This trend just goes to show that the crime is on the increase and the affected governments must intensify efforts to tackle the poachers.
A regional anti-poaching initiative, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, has warned that ivory and rhino horn poachers have become sophisticated and stresses the urgent need to train rangers in weaponry and intelligence gathering and analysis.
Until the African governments beef up their respective wildlife conservation agencies, the menace will continue endangering our wildlife.
There is also need to crack down on the buyers of these products since as long as there is a ready market, the practice will be hard to eradicate.