Bloodiest Week for Rhinos Ever?

Seven rhinos, their heads bloodied and their horns cut off, were found dead in the last week of May in five wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in different regions of Kenya. The rhinos had all been shot, one on a private ranch, Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary, where poachers were actually seen cutting off the animal’s horns.

The killing of the seven rhinos, and in sanctuaries specifically established to protect them, brings the number of rhinos killed so far this year in Kenya to 24. The attacks, writes Paula Kahumbu in the Guardian, seem to have been coordinated. No arrests have yet been made even though the poachers in the Oserian Wildlife Sanctuary were sighted.

30 rhinos were killed in 2012. It is not an exaggeration to say that, if this rate of killing continues in Kenya, the country’s remaining population of about 1,000 rhinos will be fast depleted, even by 2030 — in less than 20 years.

The Kenyan government has sought to assure the public that it has undertaken a wide-scale effort to pursue poachers. Just before the killings of the seven rhinos, Kenyan legislators had passed a motion to increase penalties for poaching. These are currently in the equivalent of $500; the new emergency legislation increases penalties to up to 15 years in jail and fines amounting to millions of shillings (a million Kenya shillings is equal to about $11,747.00).

The latest killings could, says Kahumbu, be seen as the poachers “collectively giving Kenyan lawmakers the proverbial finger.” Despite the government’s efforts, Kenya’s population of 43 million has been feeling that the poachers are, in effect, running the show.

The numbers of endangered animals killed in the past two years makes this too clear. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 30 rhinos to criminals in 2012. By the end of May of this year, besides so many rhinos, Kenya has also lost 117 elephants, though experts think these estimates are low. Rhino deaths are even higher in South Africa, where 350 rhinos have been killed so far this year.

Nepal’s Success at Protecting Rhino

The fight against poachers is certainly a tremendous challenge, but it is not impossible. In Nepal, only one rhino was killed last year and one the year before.

While Nepal’s government faces numerous challenges (the country is one of the world’s poorest), its Prime Minister, Khilraj Regmi, has taken a “personal interest in the crisis” and created three new organizations to address wildlife crime. Law enforcement is now focusing on fighting traders. Communities, who receive 50 percent of the proceeds from parks, have gained from supporting and protecting the parks via voluntary patrols. The army’s presence in national parks has also been vastly increased from 7 posts to 51 posts in Chitwan National Park, where 503 of the country’s 534 rhinos live.

Demand for Rhino Horn Traced to Vietnam

The ever-growing economic might of Asia and its expanding middle class play a huge role in the demand for rhino horns. The reason is traditional Asian medicine (according to which rhino horns have healing and aphrodisiac properties) and, even more, the growing wealth of members of the middle class. In the case of rhino horns, the “nouveau riche” in Vietnam have been especially eager for traditional luxuries such as ornamental rhino horns. Rhino horn can fetch a price of up to $1,400 an ounce — almost the price of gold — in Vietnam.

As Richard Leakey, the former Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service says to the Guardian, “I am not surprised at this attack and when it comes time to do an accounting of our rhinos, I would be surprised if there were more than 500 individuals left in Kenya.”

Preserving Kenya’s wildlife is crucial for the country’s economy and reputation as a tourist destination. It is possible to crack down and get serious on creating and enforcing laws to protect rhinos. Can Kenya do so before its rhino count has dwindled into the three figures?


Photo from Thinkstock

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Cindy Strousberg

what will these butchers do once they kill of all the rhinos go after the rest of wildlife . Something needs to be done to stop these butchers

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright2 years ago

I can't even continue to read this $h!t anymore.......each week it seems like there is a story on numberous rhinos, elephants, seals, dolphins, whales, wolves, polar bears, etc etc etc being murdered and why????

Because the human species sucks.

I don't even know how to respond to these stories. I do know that they sicken and disgust me along with the a$$hole$ responsible for these bloody murders.

I am so sick of humans I could just scream.

Carrie-Anne Brown

very sad but thanks for sharing

Waheeda S.
Waheeda S.2 years ago

This is just too heartbreaking. When will these hunters and poachers stop their greed? :(

JACQUI GLYDE2 years ago


Kimberlee W.
Kimberlee W.2 years ago

BTW, I was wondering whatever happened to the plan they were carrying out to de-horn these rhinos (cruel, but possibly necessary; prothesis(sp?) anyone?), thus making them economically UN-viable for poachers?

Was it deemed too difficult or expensive or what? Anyone know?

Would love to see someone from the continent comment on this article - - -

David V.
David V.2 years ago

Poachers should be shot on sight......with a reward for anyone who kills a poacher. Poachers need to feel threatened or they will not stop.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B.2 years ago

They should taser all poachers and hunters then torture them - punishments right now are too weak!

bob m.
bob m.2 years ago

Disagree as to "poverty" excuse .... like all under the table underworld death trips based on superstitious fear based lust and SELF crap and avarice... the money goes straight to the ivory thrones of crime to feed the golden dragon... like American super lottery now at over halfa billion... the perfect indication of a twisted corrupt society...poverty is a goad used to keep the people in the matrix. .. we have lost touch with REALITY. What the F$%k is poverty?


Michael Lee
Michael Lee2 years ago

It's like the drug trade - price is determined by supply and demand. I live in South Africa with by far the largest population of rhinos. Just like lobster and abalone (perlemoen here!) demand has just about destroyed the traditional breeding areas - (abalone also reputed to have medicinal properties by Far East countries). There are only two choices really - dry up the supply or kill the demand. We have no intention of allowing our rhino population to suffer the same fate as abalone. One of the options being considered is injecting the horns of the rhino population with a rather nasty concoction which will definitely not go down well with users.....This is already in the testing stages.
The two biggest problems facing mankind are poverty and ignorance - the use of dried rhino horn and abalone here illustrates the second problem....and until the authorities in those countries concerned start educating their citizens, we will battle with stamping out this disgusting destruction of our natural resources.
In the course of our our planet's evolutionary past there have been many mass extinctions- all the result of cataclysmic natural disasters. We are now living thru the first major extinction which can be blamed on the behaviourr of our species!