The tragic death of a popular preservationâ€™s last female rhino, killed by poachers, has caused a public outcry in South Africa for tighter restrictions and harsher penalties for hunting the endangered animals. Environmentalists are hoping the animalsâ€™ death may be the straw that broke the camelâ€™s back when it comes to their protection. Get the full story, pictures and video below.
With populations dwindling, demand for the animalâ€™s horns is only growing stronger. Used as an ingredient in many eastern herbal remedies, demand for the horns has been growing as the economy in Asia has been expanding.
Found with its horn sawed off, and said to have bled to death from the injury, the animal is the 136th to die this year at the hands of poachers. With the last female rhino killed on a major reserve, park rangers are calling for assistance from police against what they are calling mercenary poachers.
“We are dealing with very focused criminals. Police need to help game reserves because they are not at all equipped to handle crime on such an organised level,” said Wanda Mkutshulwa, a spokeswoman for South African National Parks.
Equipped with helicopters, semi-automatic weapons, tranquilizer guns, and chain saws, the poachers are a formidable opponent, especially when you consider the size of the animal preserves that need defending, and the speed of a poaching strike.
“The exercise takes them very little time,” said Japie Mostert, chief game ranger at the 1,500-hectare Krugersdorp game reserve. “They first fly over the park in the late afternoon to locate where the rhino is grazing. Then they return at night and dart the animal from the air. The tranquilliser takes less than seven minutes to act. They saw off the horns with a chainsaw. They do not even need to switch off the rotors of the helicopter. We do not hear anything because our houses are too far away. The animal dies either from an overdose of tranquilliser or bleeds to death.â€ť
Sentencing a Vietnamese man to 10 years for horn smuggling earlier this year, itâ€™s not a lack of punishment that seems to be at fault here. With the last female rhino killed, what can South African authorities do to put a stop to the growing trend? One scientist thinks he has an idea. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section! For more on the story, check out the photos and video below!