Overfishing threatens African rhinos (report)

Johannesburg / Murat Ozgur Govendik / Anadoll

Rhinoceros horns, used in the manufacture of luxury accessories and jewelry
About 60 years ago, 65,000 black rhinos lived in Africa, of which 3,800 remained.
South Africa alone is home to more than half of the black rhino population
South African park rangers have arrested 2,649 hunters since 2012
Horn smugglers are sentenced to long prison terms of 22-52 years

The endangered African rhinoceros, one of the five largest animals in Africa, is hunted illegally to get the horns from which jewelry is made and is a symbol of social prestige in some Asian countries.

Western media are promoting that there is a demand for rhino horn because the Chinese use it as an aphrodisiac in traditional medicine, but its current use is completely different.

According to national park officials in South Africa, rhino horns, which are of high value, are obtained as a result of illegal hunting and then sold for use in the production of luxury accessories and ornaments that symbolize social status and power in Asian cultures, especially in China and Vietnam.

International smuggling organizations continue to target rhinos, whose number has dropped in the last half century from 65,000 to 3,800,000, to get their horns, each weighing 6 kilograms, while the price of a kilogram is $ 100,000.

On the other hand, the fight against poachers and travel restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 epidemic, have led to a decline in rhino hunting in recent years.

South Africa is home to the black rhino

South Africa alone is home to more than half of today’s black rhino population.

It is estimated in 2022 that South Africa is home to nearly 2000 rhinos. Large numbers of black and white rhinos live in the Kruger National Park there, which is a natural habitat for the five largest animals in Africa. Despite this, Kruger Park is one of the most illegal hunting destinations in South Africa.

Prison for rhino hunters

Honor Guard officials explained the details of the rhinoceros poaching and the reasons for the growing demand for it.

It is worth noting that the Guard of Honor, a volunteer paramilitary institution in national parks in South Africa, plays an important role in the fight against poaching in South Africa.

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, Frick Rosoft, head of the Honor Guard’s Crime Scene Investigation Department, said they were facing hunters and smuggling nets with nearly 300 guards in the Kruger National Park and that they were visiting a site. approximately. every six hours for observation and inspection.

He said that 2649 illegal hunters have been arrested in this area since 2012, who have also played a role in uncovering more than a thousand illegal fishing crimes.

Roussouf explained that the process of smuggling rhino horns consists of a hierarchical organizational structure that includes five levels, ranging from local fishermen to international consumers, and that local gangs in the middle of this criminal pyramid direct fishermen to hunt rhino illegally.

He added that rhino hunters and horn smugglers in South Africa are sentenced to long prison terms ranging from 22 to 52 years and that they are not subject to financial fines but are directly punished with imprisonment.

Organizational structure of rhino horn smugglers

Roussof confirmed that they use all modern methods to investigate rhino hunting cases, including ballistic examination, DNA sampling and autopsy, and that they arrested nearly 100 hunters and smugglers last year thanks to this evidence.

And he added that despite the harsh punishments faced by black rhino hunters, there is still a strong tendency to hunt it, due to the high value of its horns, as the rhino horn weighs more than 6 kilograms. and a pound of it sells for tens of thousands of dollars.

As for the factors contributing to the spread of this crime, Roussouf mentioned that the high unemployment rate in the region, the presence of well-organized local criminal organizations and the skills of fishermen, in addition to large profits, are among the most important. the reasons that contribute to its spread.

He continued, “70% of the demand for rhino horn is due to its use in the production of accessories and jewelry as a symbol of power and social status in Asian countries.” Another 30% of the demand for rhino horn is due to its use as an aphrodisiac.

Roussof noted that the number of black rhinos in the sub-Saharan region has decreased by 95% over the past 50 years.

He added, “In the 1970s, about 65,000 black rhinos lived in Africa, and only 3,800 of them remain today.”

Johan Dabier, head of the K-9 unit of the honor guard, said dogs that are trained and included in the unit play a very important role in combating poaching and that more than 90 percent of poachers are caught by dogs.

He pointed out that the traps set by hunters for rhinos are also harming other animals and that they are conducting a search and combing operation throughout the park, which covers an area of ​​2 million hectares, to remove these traps, stressing that. have found more than 600 traps this year.

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