It was just a few weeks ago when I wrote about the rhinoceroses and elephants being poached out of existence. In that short time span, all of the endangered African rhinoceros that existed in Mozambique are now dead and the species no longer exists in that country.
According to an article by Stephen Messenger in www.Treehugger.com, "Conservationists say that the nation's remaining 15 rhinos were found dead last month (April), butchered by poachers and robbed of their horns."
This butchery occurred less than three weeks after I wrote that article. Just a decade ago, on the same lands of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park where these 15 were killed, hundreds of these rhinos roamed.
A wildlife park that could sustain hundreds of rhinos and other wildlife, as well, is no small park. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is 35,000 sq. km.; that is the equivalent of 8,648,688 acres. So, how would poachers find 15 rhinos? It turns out that the very park rangers hired to protect this endangered species are the ones that aided the poachers in the kill. Thirty rangers are due to appear in court to face these charges.
The rangers are poorly paid, in a poor nation and when rich marketers come to take the horns – money can be very persuasive. In a related article by Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg, Poachers "…target rhinoceroses for their horns which are prized in Asia for their reputed aphrodisiac and cancer-curing properties. The trade in rhino horn has seen the numbers of rhino killed spiral in recent years. Over the border in Kruger, the South African part of the Transfrontier Park, 180 have been killed so far this year, out of a national total of 249. Last year, 668 rhino were poached in South Africa, a 50 percent increase over the previous year."
Kelvin Alie, International Fund for Animal Welfare, commented on the park rangers who had once protected these animals from poachers and have now turned sides leading poachers directly to the rhinos. Working on the importance of conservation and preservation initiatives such as this, "speaks volumes about the deadly intent of the wildlife trade. They will stop at nothing to get their quarry,"Alie said. "It is tragic beyond tears that we learn game rangers have now become the enemy in the fight to protect rhino from being poached for their horns."
The Kruger National Park is South Africa's first national park and is the western boundary of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and Mozambique. Therefore, South Africa and Mozambique were working together to protect the African rhino.
A spokesman for South Africa's environment minister, Albi Modise said she would be meeting her Mozambican counterpart in the coming weeks.
Killing a rhino in South Africa can actually bring stricter punishments that killing a person, whereas bringing down one of these giants simply for his horn in Mozambique might bring a fine, if anything at all.
Page 2 of 2 - If you are able to read this, then you probably will be able to tell your children that you were alive when the world still had African Rhinoceroses. It appears there are only 70 left in Kruger National Park and I am not sure if any exist anywhere else. Sadly, at the rate they are being killed by poachers – they will not exist on this planet another 6 months…
Lynn Youngblood is a KC-based naturalist.