NOTE: This is a guest post from our friends at African Wildlife Federation.
Rhinos are known for their horn, a striking characteristic on their bodies made of keratin, the same substance as human nails and hair. But because this keratin is worth more than gold, rhinos are being killed for their horn at unbelievable rates. To date, more than 235 rhinos have been killed in South Africa in 2012 alone, a rate that puts the projected year-end total at over 500 rhinos. Poachers are slaughtering almost two rhinos a day. With fewer than 25,000 remaining in Africa, the numbers arenít looking good.
Rangers in Africa are working tirelessly to protect existing rhino populations in Africa, but with poor funding and few resources, they have a hard time fighting against poachers who are both well-funded and well-equipped.
There are things that can (and must) be done. The poaching takes place on the ground, so we must provide support on the ground. That means providing surveillance equipment to track rhinos and their whereabouts: video surveillance equipment, camera traps, drones. Implanting microchips into horns or outfitting rhinos with foot collars would also help. The key to protecting rhinos is knowing exactly where they are, after all.
There is also an urgent need for more rangers and better training. In addition to manpower support, anti-poaching units need walkie-talkies for easier communication, night-vision goggles (because poachers often strike at night), more ammunition, even things we take for granted, like new, dry boots. Anything that would make the rangersí extremely difficult and dangerous job easier and safer is something we must provide.
Small investments can reap big rewards. At African Wildlife Foundation, for example, safeguarding Africa’s national treasures in the form of ranger support costs just $6 per day for one ranger.
Without a fight, we risk the chance that a species that has roamed Africa for millions of years could become extinct in our lifetimes. Poachers are backed by organized criminal syndicates. They are no amateurs and certainly possess the right tools and technologies to get their job done. We can’t expect rangers — and in turn, rhinos — to have a fighting chance if we donít level the playing field.
Photo from ThinkStockPhotos