Rhino poach­ing dips slightly in South Africa

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

The num­ber of rhi­nos killed for their horns by poach­ers in South Africa dipped slightly in the first half of this year, but more than 500 were still slaugh­tered, the govern­ment an­nounced yes­ter­day. South Africa is bat­tling a scourge of rhino poach­ing fu­elled by in­sa­tiable de­mand for their horn in Asia. Most of the de­mand em­anates from China and Viet­nam, where the horn is cov­eted as a tra­di­tional medicine, an aphro­disiac or as a sta­tus sym­bol.

“A to­tal of 529 rhino have been poached since Jan­uary 2017, com­pared to 542 in the same pe­riod for 2016, rep­re­sent­ing a de­crease of 13 rhi­nos,” En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Edna Molewa told re­porters. “These de­clin­ing num­bers do not mean we can pro­claim vic­tory (but) the down­ward trend is be­ing es­tab­lished, which is cause for cau­tious op­ti­mism.” The famed Kruger Na­tional Park, which has suf­fered the brunt of the slaugh­ter, has so far this year seen a 34 per­cent drop in num­bers of rhi­nos killed.

But the poach­ing has shifted else­where with the min­is­ter re­port­ing that the “num­ber of rhino poached un­for­tu­nately in­creased in some other prov­inces”. The num­ber of rhi­nos killed climbed steeply in the past decade from just 13 in 2007 reach­ing a peak of 1,215 in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the TRAF­FIC wildlife trade mon­i­tor­ing group. In the last eight years alone, roughly a quar­ter of the world pop­u­la­tion of rhi­nos has been killed in South Africa, home to 80 per­cent of the re­main­ing an­i­mals. Rhino horn is com­posed mainly of ker­atin, the same sub­stance as in hu­man nails. It is nor­mally sold in pow­dered form as a sup­posed cure for can­cer and other dis­eases.

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