TUESDAY, MAY 4TH, 2021
Rhino poaching is on the rise again in South Africa since the government loosened coronavirus restrictions, following a year-long lull due to the pandemic.
The strict limits on travel, including international travel, imposed in March last year had the happy side effect of keeping poachers at bay. In 2020, 394 rhinos were poached, 30% fewer than the year before and the lowest yearly tally since 2011.
But then South Africa began easing international travel restrictions in November.
Rhino poaching often involves both local poachers and international criminal syndicates that smuggle the high value commodity across borders, often to Asia where demand is high.
Their methods are cruel: rhinos are sometimes shot with a tranquilizer gun before the horn is hacked off, resulting in the animal being left to bleed to death.
Other rhinos are killed with high-powered hunting rifles before the horn is removed.
Reserves, which have been battling tighter budgets amid a coronavirus-induced lull in tourism, have also been forced to cut back on anti-poaching patrols, compounding the threat to rhinos.
Some reserves use dehorning to prevent armed poachers from taking advantage of easier cross-border travel.
Veterinarians cut the horn at the stub, rather than removing it all, which prevents the rhino from bleeding to death. Balule Nature Reserve, located in the greater Kruger system has de-horned 100 rhinos since April 2019.