Rhinos became extinct in Mozambique, a country on the East coast of Africa that borders South Africa, over a hundred years ago, when they were wiped out by hunters.
Just a few years ago, a special conservation area was established to bring back and protect rhinos in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
It didn’t take long.
The number of rhinos in the Mozambican part of the park had already shrunk to just 15, but now they have all been butchered. Poachers have once again wiped out the rhinos.
From The Telegraph:
The 15 threatened animals were shot dead for their horns last month in the Mozambican part of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also covers South Africa and Zimbabwe.
They were thought to be the last of an estimated 300 that roamed through the special conservation area when it was established as “the world’s greatest animal kingdom” in a treaty signed by the three countries’ then presidents in 2002.
Horrifyingly, those poachers have been able to accomplish this because the game rangers, hired to protect the last known rhinoceroses in Mozambique, instead worked with the hunters to destroy the animals.
As The Telegraph reports,
A game ranger arrested for helping poachers in Mozambique’s northern Niassa Game Reserve said on Mozambican Television TVM last week that he was paid 2,500 meticais (about $80) to direct poachers to areas with elephants and rhinos. Game rangers are paid between 2,000 and 3,000 meticais ($64 to $96) a month.
Thirty of the park’s 100 rangers are due in court in the coming weeks, charged with collusion in the creatures’ deaths, and they are likely to lose their jobs. But that won’t stop the poachers, since the courts barely serve as a deterrent: while killing a rhino in South Africa can attract stricter punishments than killing a person, in Mozambique offenders generally escape with a fine if they are prosecuted at all.
Understandably, the latest deaths, and Mozambique’s failure to tackle poaching, has enraged South African officials, who are threatening to re-erect fences between their reserves.
From The Associated Press:
“Their legal system is far from adequate and an individual found guilty is given a slap on the wrist and then they say ‘OK. Give me my horn back,’” said Michael H. Knight, chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission.
The rhino horn trade has caused a huge spike in rhino murders in recent years. Over the border in Kruger, the South African part of the transfrontier park, 180 have been killed so far this year, out of a national total of 249. Last year, 668 rhino were poached in South Africa, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.
Rhinos everywhere are in danger of extinction.
The problem is the demand for rhino horns, which continues unabated. Even though they are made of keratin, the same ingredient found in human hair, fingernails and horses’ hooves, the rhino horn is believed to have magical properties. In traditional Chinese medicine, the horns are ground up into a powder that is dissolved in water to treat fever, rheumatism, gout and other conditions. It is even being touted as a cancer cure and a good way to treat a hangover.
While this demand continues, the poaching will too, unless some way is found to stop them.
A South African political party has proposed legalizing the trade in rhino horn as a way to reduce the slaughter. The idea is to create a system to cut rhinos’ horns off without hurting them. The horns grow back.
So far the government and international authorities have not pursued this option.
Care2′s Piper Hoffman reports on an desperate new attempt to deter poachers, by dying the rhino horns pink. However, the downsides are that the process can make rhinos very sick, and in any case it has to be repeated every few years.
Most importantly, governments need to take action and be more vigilant.
One example of this is the important accord reached last December, when South African officials signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government to prevent and discourage poaching.
We must slow down the killing of rhinos, and this agreement is at least a start.
But it’s too late for the rhinos of Mozambique, who have now vanished forever…again.
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Photo Credit: scottnramsay