As the year winds to a close, we look back on devastating statistics in rhino poaching. In 2010, 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone. In 2012 that number has almost doubled – currently standing at 588. Propelled by mythic beliefs pertaining to the value of the rhino horn's use, there has been an increase in the demand for the horn – particularly in certain Asian countries – and hence in poaching. Dispelling ancient beliefs and myths can take eons and, with rapidly declining numbers, time is not something the rhino has on its side.
We have heard all this before and, quite frankly, it is starting to become nothing more than preaching to the converted. We know there is an increased demand. We know the practice of rhino poaching has worsened. We know the rhino teeters on the brink of extinction. Poachers know this too. The problem is they don't care. It is important to realise that there is no final answer or solution. Poachers know what everyone else does and it does not deter them. Although ignorance may fuel the demand, it does not fuel the trade. It is a trade fostered by greed and indifference – virtually impenetrable barriers.
It may be a trifle ironic to state this in a written post, but at times actions truly do speak louder than words. For too long the struggle has been passive. The tide is slowly turning and more active measures are being sought and taken. Many private reserves have resorted to dehorning their rhinos. Others have gone so far as to suggest the legalisation of rhino horn trading. Inverdoorn has taken steps to protect their rhino by injecting them with a new treatment which poisons the horn, without affecting the animal.
The next step is further involvement. During the 1980s the demand for ivory caused a boom in elephant poaching and a major decline in the population of both African and Asian elephants. The problem, although not stopped altogether, was eventually assuaged due to a ban on international ivory sales in 1990. An international ban has been in place on rhino poaching since 1980, but measures need to be sought closer to home as well. After a vicious spate of rhino killings in the North West recently, Premier Thandi Modise considered requesting the assistance of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in the struggle to protect the rhino. Serious commitment and support from top – and local – government officials will go a long way, along with a willingness to acknowledge and address the issue.
Although the time for action has certainly arrived it does not mean anything else that has been done up until now must come to a grinding halt. A few years ago, rhino poaching was not the hot topic of discussion it is today. There were no concerts for rhinos, no races for rhinos, no rhino days and no red rhinoses. Social awareness and endeavour have brought the rhino's plight to the fore. Poaching and trade will continue regardless; but if those against it plough onwards with the same determination then perhaps an answer lies in perseverance.