by Michael Lorentz
South Africa has a proud history of protecting its wildlife.
35 years ago the rhino population was on the verge of extinction, but the slide in Africa was halted, largely thanks to initiatives set up by Ian Player.
But in the last three years, poaching has gone up a gear and is now once again reaching critical and unsustainable levels.
What’s most worrying is that the modus operandi of the poachers shows that they’re ruthless, sophisticated, and well-funded.
The poachers are coming in by helicopter, darting the rhino, and hacking off the horn. The rhino’s subsequent death is slow and agonising.
The wardens and conservationists who guard the rhinos are simply outgunned, outnumbered and outmanoeuvred on every level.
We’re losing up to 10 rhinos a day. The total population of rhino in Africa, black and white, is less than 25,000.
The real danger is that the poachers actually intend to bring the rhino to the edge of extinction. This would make the rhino horns they’ve stockpiled hugely valuable. Currently, rhino horn is worth about 60,000 dollars per kilogram on the black market.
My personal belief has always been that for conservation to be effective, it has to be broad-based and about conserving large tracts of habitat first and foremost. But every now and then, a threat comes along that requires immediate and urgent attention. This is one of them.