Cape Town - A rhino poached in a Parisian zoo and staff and a baby rhino brutally attacked at an orphanage in KZN - these incidents both locally and abroad clearly show that poachers are resorting to desperate measures.
To add fuel to the fiery market, the Department of Environmental Affairs wants to sell its stockpile of rhino horn, this after releasing stats that indicate an estimated 1 054 rhino were slaughtered in 2016.
While the 10.3% decline from 2015 stats of 1 175 is good news, the escalated brutality of the manner in which these animals are being targeted is not.
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Paris Zoo rhino poaching highlights SA's dire fight
Easy targets! Europe’s 160 rhinos now at risk?
This week's brutal killing of a rhino in its enclosure at a French zoo points to a new European frontier for greedy poachers that must be closed as a matter of urgency, environmentalists and officials have said in an AFP report.
Despite a dearth of scientific evidence that rhino horn has any curative powers, rhino horn commands astronomical prices of about $60,000 (57,000 euros) per kilo (2.2 pounds) - more than gold or cocaine.
According to Europol, zoos and other public places with rhino horns on display or in storage, must remain on alert for "possible 'visits' from persons likely to defraud or attack them to obtain specimens."
The NGO Robin des Bois recommends ramping up zoo patrols and giving guards the right to fire warning shots.
It also wants to boost customs procedures and surveillance of postal services to stop the horns, whose sale is illegal everywhere, from ever reaching the Asian market.
The highest price ever recorded by French conservation NGO Robin des Bois (Robin Hood) was 100 000 euros for a kilo of powdered horn in a private sale in China.
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: 10% rhino poaching decline in 2016 but still 1 054 rhinos too much
In stark contrast to the warnings and measures taken against the sale of rhino horn in Europe, some argue that the DEA’s sale of its stockpile would help stem the poaching tide through much needed conservation funds - the repercussions of supply and demand cannot be ignored though.
Most recently parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) held in Joburg in October 2016, voted overwhelmingly to protect rhinos by rejecting a proposal to legalize the rhino horn trade. The proposal submitted by Swaziland to legalize rhino horn trade was defeated 100-26 with 17 abstentions.
Proponents of legal trade argue that they can tightly control the trade by limiting it solely to horn legally taken from living rhinos and legitimate stockpiles, and claim they will use the revenue to support anti-poaching. But WildAid and other conservation groups have warned that legitimizing the use of rhino horn by promoting trade can massively increase consumer demand in Asia for a product that is falsely claimed to cure cancer, hangovers and other illnesses.
ALSO READ: #ShockWildlifeTruths: DEA wants to 'clear its house' by selling rhino horn
In a final bid to stop the sale, Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, advocates on behalf of the world’s last land-based mega fauna, have started a petition on 4 March saying, "Has the South African Government ignored the slaughter of the Rhino in order to grow its stockpile of horn? Have they made a deal with Vietnam to sell the stockpile?
"Is this why they are attempting to lift the ban on the trade of Rhino horn? We need the world to know so that they can stop this process. Now."
Click here if you want to view or sign the petition.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Paris Zoo rhino poaching highlights SA's dire fight
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Poachers kill one of Africa's last Great Tusker elephants
- Anti-poaching community outraged: Donations flood in for attacked rhino orphanage