Park rangers prevailed over rhino killers in a skirmish at Kruger National Park.
An R5 assault rifle, along with other poaching-related implements, were also recovered. The incident occurred last evening in the Stolsnek Section of the Park.
Less than a month ago, Kruger National Park rangers shot and killed five rhino poachers near the Mozambique border. And last week, forest guards at Orang National Park in India gave a rhino poacher a taste of his own deadly medicine.
South Africa lost at least 21 rhinos to the illegal rhino horn trade during January 2011.
During 2010, 333 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa, and 2011’s death toll is rising.
Some of the killings have been noted here, including the country’s most recent rhino tragedy in the Western Cape, where a rhino was darted and overdosed at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve.
Just a few days earlier, a rhino was murdered in the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve, near the town of Senekal, in South Africa’s Free State Province.
Three weeks ago, a rhino was killed in KwaZulu-Natal. Prior to that, two rhinos were murdered in Kruger National Park, a pregnant rhino was slaughtered in the Hoedspruit area, and another near Musina. Still another was killed in the Eastern Cape, at Kariega Game Reserve near Kenton-on-Sea.
Continued use of illegal rhino horn in traditional ‘medicines’
At the root of the rhino crisis is the continued use of rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine.
Research conducted by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC revealed that most rhino horns leaving Southern Africa are being smuggled to China and Vietnam.
In Vietnam, a wildlife trade researcher found that rhino horn could command USD $40, 000 per kilogram. Other sources, including a 2008 Chinese research publication, suggest that the price could be even higher in China, perhaps as high as USD $60, 000 per kilogram.1
Average weights for rhino horns are three kilograms for black rhinos, and five and half for white rhinos.
Last week, two Vietnamese rhino horn smugglers were arrested at the Wonderboom Airport in Pretoria when they were found to be in illegal possession of four rhino horns. Tran Thu Hien and Phuong Huynh Phat had killed two rhinos on a trophy hunt in Limpopo Province.
The South African Police Service noted that although the rhino hunt was legal, the trophy head must be mounted by a taxidermist, and the horns must be microchipped. This case illustrates the primary way rhino horn is laundered for the Vietnamese market: Legal rhino hunts in South Africa.
In January, South African hunter Christaan Frederik van Wyk was arrested for illegally shooting a rhino on behalf of a Vietnamese hunting client.
Veterinarian Andre Charles Uys was also arrested last month in connection with rhino horn trafficking, in a separate a incident.
There is an in-depth look at this disturbing topic at Are ‘Insiders’ Intentionally Fueling Demand for Illegal Rhino Horn?, which notes that nefarious business alliances, loophole abuse, private stockpile leakage, dehorning scams, and legalized trade speculation are exacerbating South Africa’s rhino crisis.
Source: “Three suspected poachers die.” SANParks website. 07 February 2011
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
1. Yanyan, D., Qian, J. (2008). Proposal for Protection of the Rhinoceros and the Sustainable Use of Rhinoceros Horn. State Soft Sciences Project, Development Strategy for Traditional Chinese Medicine Research