Poachers prevail in horn war

08 January 2013 - 02:00 By SCHALK MOUTON
Poachers have slain 395 rhino in the Kruger National Park so far this year. File photo.
Poachers have slain 395 rhino in the Kruger National Park so far this year. File photo.

South Africa has lost at least one rhino already in the first week of the new year and a new report shows that the war against the horn trade is being lost.

The Dalberg Report: Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking, found that global strategies to fight the illicit trade of wildlife products - such as rhino horn and lion bones - were not succeeding.

Two rhino were allegedly poached in the Kruger National Park and the Madikwe Game Reserve at the weekend .

North West environmental affairs spokesman Dumisa Seshebela yesterday confirmed the slaying of a rhino in Madikwe.

"I can confirm that a rhino has died and was found on Saturday evening in the reserve."

South African National Parks spokesman Stephens Ledwaba was still awaiting information on the reported killing in the Kruger National Park.

In Zimbabwe, four white rhino were killed in the Thetford Estate on New Year's Day. The eight horns that were removed were later recovered.

In Namibia, a black rhino was killed on December 31. The black rhino is listed as critically endangered, with about 1920 in existence.

The Dalberg Report - compiled for the World Wildlife Fund by the Dalberg Global Development Advisors - shows that wildlife trafficking is increasing despite the combined efforts of the international community, governments and civil society.

The compilers of the report surveyed a number of experts in wildlife trafficking, including law enforcement officers and government officials.

Since 2007, rhino poaching in South Africa has rocketed by 3000%, with at least 633 rhinos killed in the country last year.

The illicit trafficking of wildlife products is the fourth-largest global illegal trade after narcotics, humans and counterfeit products. It is believed the trade generates $10-billion a year.

"The price of rhinoceros horn has increased to around $60000/kg - twice the value of gold and platinum - and it is now more valuable on the black market than diamonds and cocaine," the Dalberg Report stated, adding that poaching was often seen as a far less risky criminal operation than the drug trade.

"The penalties associated with trafficking rhinoceros horn are not aligned to its value.

"Poachers convicted in South Africa may get away with a $14000 fine, while trafficking 5g of cocaine [will usually result in] five years in jail," the report noted.

According to Traffic, a global organisation fighting wildlife trafficking, at least nine people - including two Tanzanian police officers - have been arrested in connection with the illegal trade of rhino horn and elephant tusks.

At least four rhino horns and 1.3 tons of ivory have been confiscated, the organisation said. - Additional reporting by Sapa