More rhi­nos poached last year

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECOWATCH -

MORE than 1,300 rhi­nos were poached in Africa last year, a record since 2008 when South Africa banned trade in rhino horns.

“The num­ber of African rhi­nos killed by poach­ers has in­creased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1,338 rhi­nos killed by poach­ers across Africa in 2015,” the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture ( IUCN) said in a state­ment.

The slaugh­ter has been driven by de­mand for their horn in coun­tries such as China and Viet­nam, where they are prized for their pur­ported medic­i­nal prop­er­ties.

The horn is com­posed mainly of ker­atin, the same com­po­nent as in hu­man nails, but it is sold in pow­dered form as a sup­posed cure for can­cer and other dis­eases.

Trade in rhino horns was banned in 1977 by the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species ( CITES), an in­ter­na­tional treaty cre­ated in 1973 to pro­tect wildlife against over- ex­ploita­tion, and en­sure that trade in spec­i­mens of wild an­i­mals and plants does not threaten their sur­vival. But it was only banned in 2008 in South Africa, which is said to be home to 20,000 rhi­nos or 80% of the world’s rhino pop­u­la­tion.

IUCN di­rec­tor- gen­eral In­ger An­der­sen said de­spite stepped- up sur­veil­lance by field rangers risk­ing their lives daily there had been “alarm­ing in­creases in poach­ing over the past year in other vi­tally im­por­tant range states, such as Namibia and Zim­babwe” both of which ad­join South Africa.

De­mand for rhino horn from South- East Asia is be­ing il­le­gally sup­plied by so­phis­ti­cated transna­tional or­gan­ised crime net­works, the IUCN said. They are sold for about US$ 60,000 ( RM252,000) a kilo­gramme on the black mar­ket, mak­ing it more ex­pen­sive than co­caine.

“The ex­ten­sive poach­ing for the il­le­gal trade in horn con­tin­ues to un­der­mine the rhino con­ser­va­tion suc­cesses made in Africa over the last two decades,” said IUCN ex­pert Mike Knight.

On the plus side, poach­ing in Kenya de­creased over the past two years and went down for the first time in South Africa in 2015. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, there were be­tween 19,000 and 21,000 white rhi­nos in Africa last year and be­tween 5,000 and 5,500 black ones. – AFP

some 5,000 are all that re­main of black rhi­nos in Africa. — reuters

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