Checking the Poaching of Rhinos in South Africa


Just recently in the State of New Mexico, the Fish and Game Department announced that they would be getting extremely tough on poachers; hunters who are taking antlers as trophies, yet leaving carcasses behind to rot. In fact, they are only one of many states that are throwing their weight behind legislation happening in the House of Representatives that will make poaching a fourth-degree felony instead of a simple misdemeanor. They no longer want to slap the wrists of people, they want the hunting community to view these particular people as criminals.

Poaching has always been a violation in a true hunter’s eye, because they are all about legitimate hunting for the correct reasons. But this is one area of the law that we will be seeing a great deal of in the coming year. And it is no surprise, considering that information from Johannesburg is also making the headlines regarding hideous poaching that is still happening all over their area.

It was an article that made people stand up and shout when it came across from “The Associated Press” that a: “high-valued target survived two White Rhino & Calfattempts on her life.” This is a story about a rhinoceros called Phila, who has now amazingly recovered from multiple gunshot wounds. In fact, she has helpers around her that have secretly moved her to an undisclosed location so that these killers – who obviously want to bring her down – won’t be able to find her again. And even though this particular news piece was about only one rhino, there is actually a horrific number of these creations that are incurring tragic injuries by poachers who are trying to hack off their horns.

There has actually been a surge in rhino killings in South Africa, and it is the veterinary profession that is coming to the rescue. Veterinarians are literally swarming the country in order to learn all they can about the anatomy of a rhino so that they can treat these animals fast and correctly when the poacher attacks with either assault rifles and/or drug-tipped darts.

Funding is needed not only to stop the poachers and cure the animals, but it has also proven difficult to make the rhino ‘want’ to live after they have survived actual injury You see, this is one breed that has an extremely difficult time being moved from their habitat, and can be so traumatized that they actually end up succumbing to death anyway.

Seeing as that the rhino is not a ‘common animal’ to treat, vets are doing their best, but the number attacked is growing grotesque. The government has stated that a record 668 rhinos were killed in the country just last year, which is an increase of nearly 50%.

So why is this becoming such a ‘retail’ game for poachers all of a sudden? It actually stems from the fact that in various Asian countries, they believe the rhino horn has medicinal properties and that it is needed to save peoples’ lies. Is this true? Actually…not at all, and there is a ton of research reports and studies done on the horn that proves it has no medicinal properties whatsoever.

The people who are attempting to protect the rhinos, such as game reserve owners, have become more than a little fearful that the poachers will attack their land. While other people, unfortunately, are actually making deals with poachers in order to bring in more money.

At the moment, the estimated number of rhinos surviving attacks such as these is about 40 to 60 a year, which is barely ten percent. And the way they are being left behind is beyond disgusting. When it comes to Phila, she will always walk around with a number of bullets and fragments that could simply not be removed. For now she is alright and, thankfully, safe, but this is one industry that is all about cash…and no end is in sight.

The babies are not safe either. It was the Endangered Wildlife Trust, which is a South African-based conservation group, that was recently in charge of rescuing a two-month-old rhino. Its mother was gone; poachers had carved out her horn and left her for dead, while they scarred the baby with deep lacerations to its face. The Trust believes that the poachers slashed the baby when it tried to return to its dead mother while they were still in the process of removing its horn.

Our society consistently talks about the violence that is found on our streets. We are a society that is sick of the violence found in our schools and the absolute fear that a parent now has when their child even goes to school. This – Phila’s situation – is just as terrifying, and it would seriously help if people reached out and learned more about these creatures and how the rhino murders can stop.

Yes, there will always be ‘wrong’ out there in the world; but the point is, that there is also more than one community that’s in the right.’ And that ‘right’ needs to bring understanding and education to all, so that these creatures stand a chance!

*The International Rhino Foundation helps manage programs in nature and captivity and also funds research into rhinos, while focusing on developing ways to help rhinos in the wild.