Massive demand in Asia has driven up the price of the animal’s horn to around $100,000 a kilogram. Rhino horn is now more valuable than gold or platinum. And in South Africa, another record year for rhino poaching has conservationists worried they’re losing the fight to protect these animals.
Visitors are able to come very close to the rhinos. They can get a lesson in how smaller-scale owners are combatting the poachers by injecting rhino horns with a red dye that will make humans sick.
“The poison that’s in the horn is not suitable for human consumption,” Renee Hartslief, owner of Private Game Park said. “We don’t know if that means they will die, certainly we hope they won’t, but it does mean they will get very sick.”
Injecting these valuable horns, as the team did two years ago, is controversial. It can be dangerous for the animal. The procedure hasn’t been widely adopted.
Without millions of dollars to spend, Renee and her team are always open to new ideas.
“I don’t think you can ever have too much security, but by the same token you can’t only have security. You have to try different methods, because the way we’re going right now, nothing is working,” Hartlief said. “You see that with the numbers just escalating. So for myself, I have tried everything – I tried de-horning the rhinos, and then the poachers started going after the base of the horn.”
Tourism has generated some revenue for the increasing costs of protection efforts.
Visiting to see one of the ‘Big 5′ has become a favorite pastime, so South Africans are desperate to stop the killings. But 2014 has been another record year with 1,116 rhinos have been poached to date. It has happened despite a massive public awareness campaign and a significant militarization on the ground.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked either.
This has left even well-resourced parks looking for alternatives-like canine patrols.
The dog is able to pick up a poacher’s scent with his nose far faster than a human can see a poacher with his eyes.”
This canine unit training center was opened earlier this year, as the first of its kind.
It’s run by a private defense contractor that hopes to roll out teams across the continent.
“This is not conventional warfare. We have to accept that this is a proper insurgency, it’s guerilla warfare,” Ivor Ichikowitz, CEO Paramount Group said. “It’s an issue of theft of Africa’s resources, and we have to use the right tools to fight that. We’re finding that dogs are some of the best tools in fighting this war.”
Anyways Munarwo is the sole security guard on Hartslief’s land. He has seen suspicious helicopters overhead. The criminal syndicates have abundant resources. Munarwo said he hasn’t seen a poacher.
Munarwo described the large fence that acts as a barrier between poachers and rhinos. He said the fence is a good deterrent, there has been some incidents where the fence has been vandalized.
“Six months ago, I was patrolling here and I saw the whole fence was cut. Somebody had cut the fence and come in. So I went to look, but everything was fine. They hadn’t done anything,” Munarwo said.
With government parks and wealthier private owners struggling to protect the rhinos, the smaller ones are even more vulnerable.
Kruger National Park in South Africa is relocating its rhinos, to try to keep them out of reach of their possible killers. The park shares a border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, one area hit the hardest by poaching with more than 1,000 rhinos in 2014. Many South Africans have gotten involved in the fight against poaching including one of the country’s youngest social entrepreneurs.
She may be pint-sized but South Africa’s youngest entrepreneur, Alyssa Carter, SANParks Rhino Champion has taken a big stand against rhino poaching in South Africa’s largest game reserve, the Kruger National Park.
“I would be very sad if there wasn’t any rhinos because they’re my favourite animals. I like their horns and I like the colour that they are,” Carter said.
The Kruger spans 2 million hectares (200 million acres) and is bordered by Mozambique and Zimbabwe, making it difficult for police to protect. Carter started a Save the Rhino fund two years ago to raise money for sniffer dogs.
Carter started to raise money after learning about rhino’s endangered status.
“When I was learning about endangered animal in school that’s when I decided to do this fund. (JC) I sell chocolates, stickers, lollipops, little sweets, biscuits and stuff,” Carter said.
Alyssa’s father said he remembers the day Alyssa decided to advocate for the rhinos.
“Often I just go back and think about that original day when she came home and she said, mum, dad this is what I’m doing, this is what I want to do because I cried at school when they told me this about the rhinos being killed,” Brian Carter, Alyssa’s father said.
Alyssa said her father was her first customer, he bought chocolate for $1. She speaks at schools and conferences and has raised more than $26,000, enough to buy 2 dogs at $10,000 each.
Trevor Kalk, SANParks Honorary Ranger said, “Her money that she has generated from various corporate companies, the sale of chocolates and so forth will now be used to purchase the dogs for the Kruger National Park.”
The dogs will be used at the various gates to sniff potential weapons and more.
Of all of the rhinos killed this year, two-thirds of them were in the Kruger alone. Alyssa said she will not stop her fight until the rhinos are saved. Video and photos.