A group of lions is called a pride. A group of elephants is called a herd. And in the unlikely event of finding a group of rhinoceroses, it would be called a crash. Unfortunately, the probability of finding large groups of these animals in the wild is becoming rare. What is left in place of an expansive Savannah scattered with magnificent beasts, is the narrowing of animal diversity. The foremost perpetrator: poaching.

According to a survey done by the International Union for Conservation (IUCN), as of November 7, 2013 the Western Black rhino is officially extinct. Sadder still is the almost inevitable extinction of the Northern White and Javan rhinos. The IUCN describe them as “making [their] last stand” and “teetering on the brink of extinction.” Unless drastic and prompt measures are taken, it will be difficult to stop the Northern White and Javan from meeting the same end as their Western cousin.

Poaching, ineffective anti-poaching efforts, and a failure of courts to hand down severe sentences to punish poachers may all be blamed for not only the Western’s demise but the fact that 25 per cent of mammals are teetering on the brink of extinction.

Conservationists are formulating a variety of anti-poaching techniques to combat these effects. Most recently, rhino horns are being poisoned and painted pink in South Africa to combat poachers. Persons who consume these horns will fall violently ill.

This technique, developed by Dr. Charles van Niekerk, has been extremely successful. On the Dinokeng nature reserve, where the technique is being used, not a single rhino has been poached. Unfortunately, at least 200 rhinos have been killed elsewhere.

As a back-up measure, the rhinos with this dye also have a microchip inserted into the horn. Incredibly, airport scanners can also detect the dye, even when ground as a powder, making the transport of these horns difficult. Presently, the main problem associated with this process is the difficulty in applying it to all rhinos because of a lack of resources.

The demand for these products is unprecedented. Last year, the market for ivory caused an estimated 96 elephants to be killed daily. This translates to an elephant every 15 minutes. Ground rhino horn is both a delicacy and is frequently used in traditional medicine in the Far East.

The allure of poaching is no mystery. It is a lucrative business.  “The value of a rhino horn in illegal trade is probably 100 times the average earnings of a villager living next to them,” explains Christy Williams, World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) leader on Asian elephants and rhinos.  “It makes poaching a coveted money-making opportunity.”

The Black Market, according to TRAFFIC, is worth about 160 billion dollars. While this can only be an estimate because of the covert nature of this trading, it is a strong indication of the economic worth of poaching.

Africa, presently in the midst of political chaos, is allowing the propagation of this poaching because of local poverty and social disorder. In March of 2013, the Seleka toppled the Central African Republic’s government, and since then have been wrecking havoc on both the people and wildlife. In early April, they went so far as to gun down 26 elephants with automatic weapons, remove the tusks, and vanish.

Organizations such as the WWF have been funding anti-poaching methods. They are building camps where rangers can stay and providing them with the proper equipment to effectively monitor and patrol reservations.

The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable future where villagers and communities can benefit from a relationship with the endangered species surrounding them. However, until this can be done, and unless strict poaching regulations are enforced, it remains dubious.

– Chloe Nevitt
Feature Writer

Sources: Daily Mail1, Daily Mail2, WWF1, WWF2, US News
Photo: The Gaurdian