When departing the gates of Kruger National Park we heard the shocking news on the radio that 8 Rhino carcasses had been found in Kruger National Park the day previous. Three were found in the Pretoriuskop area section and the other five were in the Lower Sabie section. All 8 were adults and had been de-horned. This is a growing problem in Kruger. Last year, about 443 rhino were killed for their horns, with 333 killed in 2010. The people who cause this are truly an abomination and need to be stopped
Note, I say those people that cause it, not necessarily those that carry out the dreadful deed (though I have very little patience for them either!). The poachers themselves are desperate people who have been paid circa 200 South African Rand (approx £17) for the Rhino horn. Armed with nothing but an AK47, they own nothing and them and their families live in absolute poverty. They risk, and often lose their lives to obtain the horn for Chinese Medicine (Rhino horn has been used for many centuries in Chinese medicine, where it is ground into a powder and often mixed with hot water to treat a variety of health issues including rheumatism, gout, high fever and even devil possession). They are paid off by western ‘businessmen’ who trade the horn for much, much more than the poultry £17 that cost the poachers are paid. A South African website(fin24) reports that the street value of rhinoceros horns had soared to about $65 000 a kilogram, making it more expensive than gold, platinum and in many cases cocaine. How the heck can the businessmen get away with it?
There has to be a complex and dangerous chain linking the poacher and businessmen, which many speculate involves inside traders in Kruger, the airports and the government – how else would the poachers be able to transport the horn past Kruger boarder and airport checks?
When speaking to a Kruger National Park ranger about this most topical subject, he highlighted that the assumption that all poachers are from neighbouring Mozambique might be flawed – in his experience 60% of the poachers are native South Africans who enter the park and use the tourist sightings and parks’ infrastructure to conceal their intentions and actions. For this reason, rhino sightings are now kept secret by tourists and rangers and for conservation reasons are no longer recorded on the sighting boards in all the SAN Parks rest camps. This is why we’ll also be removing our GPS coordinates from any rhino photos we upload to the Taraji Blue website.
Despite this tragedy, there is a lot of effort being placed into anti poaching patrols in Kruger and they are doing a great job to tackle this issue. In 2011 soldiers and surveillance aircraft were deployed in efforts to slow the carnage and daily and nightly patrols now run across the park. Local businesses are also getting involved in anti poaching efforts too. For example, A Unitrans Volkswagen and Audi initiative now ensures that every car sold provides a donation of R500 to anti poaching efforts, providing a much needed source of income to assist anti-poaching measures. They have also donated vehicles to the cause.
So why am I telling you about this tonight? Mainly because I am hopping mad about what’s happening and I want to share my grief that these most beautiful beasts are being slaughtered for Chinese Medicine. If raising awareness is one little thing I can do to contribute, then I will do all I can. Please help me spread the word and lets do what we can as a collective to assist anti-poaching efforts.
Images of Rhinos in Kruger National Park are available in our Taraji Blue online photo gallery.