This is an excellent article and photo series that National Geographic put together. It puts into perspective what is going on with rhino poaching and how powerful of an offense industry this is. That horn has value, and criminals are willing to risk much to go after that horn. In turn, that process is leading to the destruction of the animal.
Hopefully a defense industry can come up that can compete with this, or the animal will be hunted into extinction. Or perhaps an offense industry is required to defeat this offense industry?
I should also note that elephants are being targeted for their ivory as well. (read about this slaughter of elephants in Cameroon) Asia is creating such a strong demand for all of this stuff, and as places like China become more wealthy, then the buyers with money will only increase. This is a very unique war indeed, and it will definitely take extreme measures to stop it. -Matt
By Peter Gwin
The rifle shot boomed through the darkening forest just as Damien Mander arrived at his campfire after a long day training game ranger recruits in western Zimbabwe’s Nakavango game reserve. His thoughts flew to Basta, a pregnant black rhinoceros, and her two-year-old calf. That afternoon one of his rangers had discovered human footprints following the pair’s tracks as Basta sought cover in deep bush to deliver the newest member of her threatened species.
Damien, a hard-muscled former Australian Special Forces sniper with an imposing menagerie of tattoos, including “Seek & Destroy” in gothic lettering across his chest, swiveled his head, trying to place the direction of the shot. “There, near the eastern boundary,” he pointed into the blackness. “Sounded like a .223,” he said, identifying the position and caliber, a habit left over from 12 tours in Iraq. He and his rangers grabbed shotguns, radios, and medical kits and piled into two Land Cruisers. They roared into the night, hoping to cut off the shooter. The rangers rolled down their windows and listened for a second shot, which would likely signal Basta’s calf was taken as well.
It was an ideal poacher’s setup: half-moon, almost no wind. The human tracks were especially ominous. Poaching crews often pay trackers to find the rhinos, follow them until dusk, then radio their position to a shooter with a high-powered rifle. After the animal is down, the two horns on its snout are hacked off in minutes, and the massive carcass is left to hyenas and vultures. Nearly always the horns are fenced to an Asian buyer; an enterprising crew might also cut out Basta’s fetus and the eyes of the mother and calf to sell to black magic or muti practitioners. If this gang was well organized, a group of heavily armed men would be covering the escape route, ready to ambush the rangers.