[Admin note: The original post has numerous formatting "issues," so I'm merely guessing at how to best format it for easy reading here. Update: here's a cleaner version.\
Considering that we humans have proven again and again that we’re highly skilled at decimating wild populations of animals, you’d figure we’d chill out a bit, assured in our place at the top of the food chain. But no. Because a whole lot of people remain convinced that keratin, the stuff your fingernails are made of, has magical medicinal qualities, last year’s record rhino poaching total of 668 dead individuals has already been surpassed.
In 2007, a total of 13 were killed. This year, there have already been at least 688
What else is there to say? The rhino horn crisis has become so lucrative, so entrenched, and so heavily controlled by criminal and militant interests that even the South African population, long thought as rhinos’ last stronghold, is under threat. Not long ago the country was estimated to be home to 20,000 white rhinos. That number stands at 18,000 in just a few years. And with the pace increasing, it will likely depress even further.
These trends are nothing new. The demand for horn has decimated rhinos in the past. From 1960 to 1995, the population of black rhinos decreased nearly 98 percent, bottoming out at 2,410 individuals. Now listed as critically endangered, they’ve rebounded to somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals, largely in South Africa. But now poaching pressure has pushed them down again.
All the white rhinos left are the southern subspecies, as the northern subspecies is presumed extinct after sustained poaching in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s embattled Garamba National Park. That poaching is being led by militant groups looking to cash in on skyrocketing Asian demand that’s pushed horn prices well into six figures. More....