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Collaborative Effort to Stop Rhino Poaching in South Africa

287 rhinos poached in South Africa this year alone. Over 165 arrests made. Now, more than ever, we need to curb demand for rhino horn and end poaching.

September 22, 2011 marked the second annual World Rhino Day with the slogan “Rhino horns are not medicine.” It was created in 2010 to draw attention to the alarming rise of rhino poaching in southern Africa. Rhino horns are in high demand in Asia where they are believed to cure diseases like cancer.

The poaching crisis
At least 287 rhinos were poached in South Africa so far in 2011, including 16 or more critically endangered black rhinos. A majority of the poaching occurred in the world famous Kruger National Park, but privately owned rhinos were also targeted. Over 165 arrests were made in 2011 and some convicted poachers were sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.

An 11 member suspected poaching syndicate is facing charges of killing 20 rhinos and attempting to traffic their horns.  The defendants include safari tour operators, veterinarians and a pilot. The carcasses of the animals were discovered on the safari tour operators’ property in late 2010.

Taking action to save rhinos
South Africa is home to most of the world’s rhinos. Officials there are working to stop poaching by increasing protection, conducting more rigorous prosecutions and imposing stricter sentences on wildlife criminals.

WWF and TRAFFIC are finding new ways to reverse the trend. We support:

  • informant networks and investigations
  • law enforcement exchange missions between Asia and Africa to provide training and equipment
  • the elevation of poaching issues to the highest levels in governments and international leaders

To effectively tackle poaching, these actions must be met with a corresponding commitment by countries in Asia where consumer demand for rhino horn is provoking poachers.

South Africa will host government delegations from Vietnam and China to address growing demand for rhino horn in Asia where it is used in traditional medicine. The governments will also discuss methods for greater cooperation on law enforcement and criminal investigations.

“Rangers risk their lives daily to protect wildlife from poachers and traders who are motivated only by greed. We salute all those working to secure a future for rhinos, and we call on government leaders in Vietnam and China to do their part.”

- Matthew Lewis, WWF manager of African species