Send in the drones
Just like the war on drugs appears to be never-ending, so, too, does the battle to contain poaching. As populations of rhinos and other endangered species dwindle, law enforcers must face an enemy that is diverse, secretive and run by sophisticated organised crime networks. It is a war fuelled by big money.
In a market analysis, independent conservation economist Michael ‘t SasRolfes describes what motivates the illegal trade. “We know that poachers are motivated by the prospect of profit. The greater the expected profit from poaching, the greater the incentive to poach,” he says. “The same principles apply to illegal traders.”
From the mid-1990s until 2007, the conservation economist reports that poaching levels remained negligible. Then things started to change. “The market price for rhino horn in Vietnam has reached extraordinary levels – there are suggestions that, although highly variable, the average retail price in 2011 appeared to be in the region of $65 000 [R766 437] per kilogram,” states SasRolfes. “This high price has no doubt encouraged a far more concerted and sophisticated organised crime element to enter the rhino horn market, and this is reflected in the tenacity and methods used by the current illegal suppliers.” He is adamant that measures to physically protect live rhinos are a far better deterrent than after-the-fact law enforcement like the pursuit of poachers, smugglers and illegal traders.
According to off icial f igures cited by Savetherhino.org, 1 214 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2014 – that’s more than three per day. Despite intensive conservation efforts, the death rate is about to overtake the birth rate, which could spell extinction.
Worldwide, rhino populations are under serious threat: at the beginning of the 20th century, there were half a million of these animals in six main species groups in Africa and Asia. The
The northern white rhinoceros, or northern square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), is one of the two subspecies of the white rhinoceros. Formerly found in several countries in East and Central Africa south of the Sahara, it is considered “critically endangered” or “extinct in the wild”.