Shocking statistics just released from South Africa National Parks show that 341 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa so far in 2011, compared to 333 last year, which was the highest total ever experienced in South Africa. Of the five species of rhinoceros, three are critically endangered. With the loss of the Vietnamese Javan rhino and Africa's western black rhino we have to do everything we can to protect the other rhino species.
South Africa in the Spotlight
Rhino poaching across Africa has risen sharply in the past few years, threatening to reverse hard-won population increases achieved by conservation authorities during the 20th century. The spike in poaching throughout Africa and South Asia has been caused largely by increased demand for horn in Vietnam for purported medicinal products. Law enforcement efforts are increasing but it is difficult to protect rhinos from poachers who are highly organized and using very sophisticated methods. South Africa has been the focal point of poaching because it has the largest population of rhinos in the world. Law enforcement efforts there have increased, resulting in more arrests with some of those convicted being sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
A Ray of Hope
Not all rhino news out of South Africa is dire. In October 2011, WWF helped to successfully establish a new black rhino population in a safer, more spacious location. This work was done by the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP), a partnership between WWF-South Africa, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism.
Nineteen critically endangered black rhinos were moved in order to help increase land available for their conservation. This reduces pressure on existing wildlife reserves and provides new territory where rhinos have a greater opportunity to increase in number. Creating more dispersed and better protected populations also helps keep rhinos safe from poachers.
How WWF Will Help
WWF has been involved in rhino conservation for nearly 50 years. Our efforts in both Asia and Africa work to save the rhino population in multiple ways:
- Expand existing protected areas and improving their management as well as establishing new protected areas
- Improve security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching
- Improve local and international law enforcement to stop the flow of rhino horn and other illegal wildlife trade items from Africa to other regions of the world
- Promote well managed wildlife-based tourism experiences that will also provide additional funding for conservation efforts