It has been less than two weeks into 2012 and already eight rhinos have been poached in South Africa. They were found in Kruger National Park, shot with AK-47s apparently by criminals who entered from Mozambique.
Last year about 450 rhinos were poached in South Africa, with 252 in Kruger park. If you are unfamiliar with Kruger, it is South Africa’s largest wildlife park, visited by tourists from all over the world. The South African army has been called to help prevent the poachings by working with police, but the criminals are well-organized and sometimes employ hi-tech devices such as night vision goggles, and even small helicopters, so they can land undetected at night and get away before they can be apprehended.
What drives the poachers is high demand from Asia for useless traditional medicines, but rhino horn is composed mainly of the same material found in human fingernails and toenails, called keratin. Meaning not only are rhinos dying for no reason, the people who pay top dollar for it are wasting their own money and fueling the destruction of one of the world’s largest mammals, which are at perilously low numbers.