By Rishab Revankar
High above the vast grasslands of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a helicopter armed with tranquilizer guns zeroes in on its prey: a black rhinoceros bull.
With its target locked, the helicopter crew fires an array of tranquilizer darts.
Upon landing, the crew members set out to complete a job half-done, vigorously hacking off the rhino’s horn with a two-stroke chainsaw.
Now dehorned, the rhino dies from an overdose of tranquilizers or bleeds to death.
The slaughtering of the rhino is deeply ingrained in South African culture. Home to 80 percent of Africa’s rhino, South Africa saw 633 rhinos killed by poachers in 2012.
“That number shows the scale of the poaching crisis,” said Katherine Ellis, office and communications manager of Save the Rhino International, to The Guilfordian. “It is a pretty serious crisis rhinos are facing at the moment.”
Save the Rhino has monitored professional poachers who are launching high-tech attacks on the endangered black rhino.
“Criminal gangs and syndicates go in there with night vision, helicopters, chainsaws and gunshot silencers,” said Ellis. “So despite intense security, these gangs often get away with it.”
The prospect of driving the rhino into extinction does not seem to concern local poachers. From a poacher’s perspective, the rhino is merely a placeholder for a much more coveted prize: the rhino horn.
“A rhino can be dehorned without it being killed, but poachers will kill the rhino to hack off all of the horn they can get, which leaves the rhino bleeding to death,” said Ellis. More....