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African rhino poaching crisis

Shocking numbers emerge driven by Asian demand

Every other day Africa loses a rhino to poaching.

Poaching has increased dramatically over the last year-and-a half, fuelled by demand for rhino horn from the Asian market. The numbers being tallied in South Africa are grim—more than 600 rhinos were poached across the African continent in the last five years and South Africa alone has seen the loss of over 212 rhinos since 2009.

There used to be hundreds of thousands of rhinos throughout Africa. South Africa, proud stronghold of the African black and white rhino with more than 80 percent of Africa’s total rhino population, has been losing at least 20 rhinos per month. Approximately 4,000 black rhinos and 17,500 white rhinos are all that prevent Africa’s rhinos from extinction.

“This poaching epidemic is extremely worrying,” says Matthew Lewis, WWF African species expert. “If it is not stopped, the rhino conservation progress of the last decade will be in jeopardy, greatly affecting biodiversity as well as the tourism industry and the communities that benefit from it.”

The increase of rhino poaching is strongly linked to growing demand from Asia. Highly organized international poaching criminal syndicates deploy advanced technologies ranging from night vision scopes, silenced weapons, darting equipment and helicopters to carry out their mission.

WWF Achievements:

  • WWF has been involved in rhino conservation and management in Africa for more than 45 years.
  • WWF started its African Rhino Program in 1997, which, with the help of our partners has helped the black rhino population recover from a low of 3,000 to nearly 4,000.
  • WWF played an instrumental role in bringing the southern white rhino back from less than 100 individuals at the turn of the 20th century to a healthy and thriving population of over 17,000 rhinos today.
  • WWF co-founded TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade network that focuses on prevention of illegal trade in species like rhinos.

Make some noise
This September, the spotlight is on stepping up security efforts in dangerous areas with high rates of poaching, highlighting the poaching crisis among South Africans and raising funds to support the rangers who put their lives on the line to protect Africa’s rhinos.

“We’re asking people to take action during this month to help us protect our remaining rhino populations and support our rhino warriors – the men and women at the front line who risk their lives every day against sophisticated, ruthless and heavily-armed international criminals that run the illegal rhino horn trade,” says Dr. Joseph Okori, head of WWF's African Rhino Program.

The month will culminate with a "Make Noise for Rhinos Day" on Wednesday, September 22, 2010. At 1pm local Johannesburg time (6am EST) everyone is invited to dust off their World Cup vuvuzelas and let out a mighty sound as a symbolic call for immediate action to stop rhino poaching through strengthened law enforcement and strict legal penalties.

Don’t have a vuvuzela?
You can still help!

  • Learn more about wildlife trade and share information with family and friends.
  • Make a donation toward equipping rhino rangers with binoculars, radios, night-vision gear, body armour, and rhino-tracking and camping equipment. Donations will also provide training for anti-poaching units and be used for emergency veterinary treatments for injured rhinos. 
  • Never buy rhino horn in any form.