A U.S. firm recently gave smart phones to some game rangers in South Africa to help them track poachers who kill rhinos for their horns. An anti-poaching ad campaign in Vietnam, a key illegal market, shows rhinos with human hands or feet in place of horns, which are made from the same material as fingernails and toenails.
Despite these and other globe-spanning projects to protect the rhinoceros, the rate of poaching in South Africa — home to most of Africa’s rhinos — this year is on track to exceed the record number of illegal kills in 2012, conservation officials say. The more money, innovation and publicity go into the cause, the more poachers, who see rhino horn as a high-priced commodity, seemingly diversify their hunt.
It resembles a tit-for-tat escalation, similar to the old arcade game “Whac-a-Mole,” in which disparate campaigns can target a poaching tactic or location only for the killing to pop up in other places and forms.
“The demand seems to be such that every time there’s a clampdown in one area, another issue emerges,” said Dr. Jo Shaw, a rhino expert in South Africa for the World Wildlife Fund.
South Africa, a haven-turned-killing ground, was once a big success. The intensity of the battle here has since made it a crucible for experiments and policy debates on how to stop poachers seeking to meet surging demand in some Asian countries. Consumers covet rhino horn after it is ground into a powder as a balm for health, despite no supporting evidence.
A South African opposition party has urged the government to label rhino poaching as a national disaster, allowing the allocation of disaster management funds to fight poaching. The Democratic Alliance also called for more discussion about legalizing the trade in rhino horns, which can grow back after cutting. More....