Rhino Poaching Numbers Unclear as New Year Begins
It’s a new year, but the same fight continues against rhino poaching in South Africa, and it’s too early to tell which side is prevailing.
Initial reports seem slightly positive. The website StopRhinoPoaching.com, claims a drop in poaching from 2014 to 2015, however modest. Founder Elise Daffue, citing unidentified sources, asserts the reported cases of rhino poaching fell to 1,160 last year from 1,215 the year prior, a drop of about 6 per cent. Since 2008, the numbers have steadily climbed year after year.
The numbers are being held in question, though, as other conservationists believe the amount to have risen. Another concerned activist, Britain’s Prince Harry, also cited a figure from an unidentified source back in December, saying that poachers had taken the life of 1,500 rhinos.
Meanwhile, the South African government has yet to release their official numbers. However, they recently disclosed statistics from the first eight months of 2015: 749 rhinos were killed in the country, up from 716 during the same period in 2014.
South Africa is home to roughly 80 per cent of the world’s rhino population.
A drop would mean that the government is making progress, as more global attention is drawn to poaching with more resources being invested. A rise means such efforts are failing. Still, this initial figure is being question.
“The stats do not reflect the collateral damage of rhinos that died subsequent to being a victim of an attempted poaching and all the carcasses that lie in the bush yet to be found,” said conservationist Allison Thomson in an email to the Associated Press.
In November, South Africa lifted a ban on domestic trade of rhinoceros horns, which in countries such as Vietnam and China, were believed to have curative powers. What’s more, items crafted from horns are a status symbol for the wealthy.
The United States meanwhile, has invested millions of dollars into the cause, training officers on criminal investigation and gathering information to stem the tide as the country has become the second largest market for such illegal wildlife trafficking.
The size and scope of the illegal poaching market is still unclear, as American researchers have admitted to receiving littler cooperation from the South African government. The numbers on murdered rhinos are unclear too, but the problem persists.