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  • See rhino in their wild habitat

What is happening in South Africa to our dwindling rhino population? It is being decimated at the rate of approximately a rhino every 20 hours. In ever-increasing numbers our rhinos are being slaughtered for their horns. Prior to 2008 a total of 12 rhinos were poached annually in South Africa. In 2009,  135 rhinos were killed, and in 2010 , 333 rhinos were killed for their horns.

In South Africa we have two types of rhinoceros: the white or square-lipped rhino, (which is a grazer, feeding off grasses) and the black or hook-lipped rhino, (which is a browser, feeding off of leaves and twigs). They normally drink two or three times a day but can survive without water for three to five days.  Rhinos can be found in all the national parks in South Africa and bring thousands of tourists flocking to our shores to see this great animal that looks like it came out of the dinosaur age.

The biggest problem with the poaching of these animals is that the value of the animals is set at around $9 000 to $30 000 per rhino, with females obviously getting the highest prices. But the horns by themselves are valued far above the value of a rhino and can fetch up to $80 000 per kilo in Asia, where they are ground into powder and used in medications, mostly as an aphrodisiac. So the incentive for the poachers is very high.

In the latest poacher attack, over the weekend, the Aquila game reserve in Worcester in the Western Cape had an attack by helicopter at 9pm in the evening. The helicopter was flying very low over the reserve with no lights on. It made two low sweeps in quick succession and then flew off.  The rangers were alerted and went to investigate and found to their horror that three of their rhinos had been attacked. One male had had his horns hacked off his face with a machete and could not be saved, a second male had been darted with tranquilisers and his horn was sawn off with a hacksaw, and a female calf had also been darted twice but had not had her horn removed. The young female had been darted with a poison and has since  been given an antidote and is doing well, with the older male recovering but on a drip in order to get some liquids into him.

We sincerely hope that these poachers will be caught and be dealt with to the full letter of the law. Sadly the convictions in South Africa have not been severe enough to act as a deterrent so far. This is just wanton slaughter of the worst kind and so far mankind is proving just how ugly it can be.

If we can stop this now there is hope that our grandchildren will still be able to see rhinos in their natural wild habitat and not in museums or picture books.

25th August 2011: Sadly, we have to report that Absa, the rhino in this video has died. Huge thanks to the valiant effort by the vets and all concerned at Aquila game reserve, in trying to save his life. Our thought are with you and we hope that these individuals will be caught and severely dealt with.