Three Suspected Rhino Killers Shot Dead in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Park rangers prevailed over rhino killers in a skirmish at Kruger National Park.


In an armed encounter at South Africa’s Kruger National Park, three suspected rhino killers were fatally shot by park rangers. Another suspect was wounded, and a fifth escaped.

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.

Slaughter continues

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.

In addition, at least seven rhinos have been gunned down in Zimbabwe, one in India, and another in Nepal.

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.

Illegal rhino horn is in highly sought after for use in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, despite the fact rhino horn has been extensively analyzed and contains no medicinal properties.

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.

Inside jobs

It turns out that an alarming number of “insiders” from within the South African conservation community have been busted for cashing in on the ignorance and myths surrounding the use of rhino horn.

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

Other:

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

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. This will not stop. There are millions of desperate souls that will risk their lives for the promise of income and we can not shoot them all, tempting as it might be. We need to address the root cause. Impotent Asian men who use rhino horn to cure their flailing errection problems should now also be hunted down.

  2. Johan Van den Berg

    Best news so far for February!!! Just wondered where the poachers got the R5 rifle from? Those firearms are only used by the South African Defence Force and the South African Police. Maybe the goverment should stop targeting legal firearm owners with its new laws and rather account for their own firearms that more than often end up at a crine scene. makes one wonder about the South African goverments “political will” to act against poaching.
    Also, still the silence from the ministry regarding the rhino MASSACRE!!! To date no goverment minister or opposition politician has taken a stand and publicly spoken out aginst rhino MURDERS!!! Why not??? They seem to be very outspoken about other miner issues, but when it comes to the saving of a specie from extinction, not a word!!!
    Well done to the rangers who, under difficult conditions, perform a great duty!!! Keep up the good work, you good people!!!! ONE POACHER, ONE BULLET!!!

  3. I have no problem, shooting ” innocent souls who poach rhino” the are many other people who battle every day in Africa, but dont turn to crime to make a living.