By Maddy Sauer
A fierce debate is raging over whether legalizing rhino horns will save the poached and plundered African rhino.
The pictures and videos from the savannahs of the Kruger National Park in South Africa are gruesome and disturbing. In one, an adult rhino has collapsed in the grass and takes its last breaths through the bloody mess that remains where its snout used to be. Minutes earlier, poachers brutally hacked off the horn and made off with their prize, abandoning its dying owner in the harsh sun.
The rhino is one of Earth's oldest residents, and experts estimate there are fewer than 26,000 left, down from 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. In a chilling announcement last week, the South African government said Kruger Park lost 13 rhinos in seven days to poachers. That makes 229 for the year in South Africa, according to its Department of Environmental Affairs.
These alarming statistics coupled with the rising price of rhino horn — a single horn can fetch more than $250,000 on the black market — has prompted some in the South African government, and even some environmental scientists, to consider the once unthinkable: legalizing the sale of rhino horn. Similar remedies have also been suggested to counter the recent surge in elephant poaching.
Proponents of a legalized trade say that the international bans on the sales of wildlife products have failed and that anti-poaching efforts have been too costly both in terms of money and lives. More....