By Rhishja Larson
A female rhino in South Africa’s Krugersdorp Game Reserve is the latest atrocity in the illegal rhino horn trade–killed by poachers who crudely slashed off her horns.
And there is another victim of this shameful crime: Her helpless nine-month-old calf is without a mother.
According to Independent Online, employees of the reserve found the dead rhino this morning. Police are currently investigating “positive leads” in the case.
Reported number of rhinos killed in South Africa: 2007-present
This is at least the eighth rhino murdered in South Africa during the past month, and the 126th of the year; however, the total could be closer to 130. (South African National Parks said on July 1 that the country had lost 124 rhinos to poachers this year–and since then, Independent Online reported, another rhino was poached in the Kruger National Park.)
Illegal rhino killing has skyrocketed in South Africa since 2008.
* 2007: 13 rhinos killed
* 2008: 83 rhinos killed
* 2009: 122 rhinos killed
Poaching syndicates and industry ‘insiders’
Since 2008, South Africa has been ruthlessly targeted by rhino poaching syndicates, which are believed to be working with industry “insiders” to slaughter rhinos in response to the demand for rhino horn in China and Vietnam.
These “insiders” include trophy hunt operators, park rangers, and even veterinarians.
Rhino horn contains no medicinal properties
Although a belief in the “healing powers” of rhino horn are driving the illegal trade, rhino horn has actually been extensively analyzed and found to contain no medicinal properties.
In fact, Dr. Raj Amin, one of the world’s leading rhino horn experts, notes that consuming rhino horn has the same effect as chewing one’s own fingernails. Check out the video below:
Unfortunately, the cultural myths that attribute healing properties to rhino horn are deeply entrenched, as rhino horn has been a key ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
And as long as these myths continue, rhino poaching syndicates will have plenty of business.
This post was updated July 15. The Krugersdorp rhino may have been killed by an overdose of tranquilizer, and not stabbed to death, as had been reported earlier in the South African media.. Several rhinos poached in South Africa recently were believed to have been immobolized by a powerful tranquilizer fired at them from a helicopter. This method has led to speculation that a veterinarian or some other “insider” may be involved in the crimes.
Rhishja Larson is the founder and Program Director of Saving Rhinos LLC, a public awareness program focusing on the illegal trade in rhino horn. She shares news, opinion, and commentary on her blog Rhino Conservation: Rhino Horn is Not Medicine.