Kruger is home to about 8,000 White Rhinos. Poaching is a huge problem which has been attacked in several ways, none of them successful.
As in the Waterberg, they begun by poisoning the rhinos’ horns to make them unfit for human consumption. The problem was that the poachers couldn’t tell which horns were poisoned until they removed them so rhinos continued to be killed just the same. If you’re wondering why the authorities didn’t just poison all of them, that’s because it costs $1,200 to do just one.
The authorities then tried removing the horns proactively but that didn’t stop the poachers. See, poachers track rhinos by their footprints and droppings. They can not tell by these signs whether a rhino has had its horn removed. After spending days tracking a rhino, the poachers tend to get mad when they finally find it missing its horn. They would kill the rhino anyway. Killing the rhino served the purpose of not having it go wandering around, leaving fresh tracks which they might then mistakenly follow again. Dehorning all the rhinos would have cost a whooping $8 million and would need to be redone every few years as the horns grow back so this was out of the question.
Next, they decided to assign an armed guard to every rhino. You would think that having their own personal bodyguard would ensure the rhino’s safety but it made it even worse. The problem here was that people are easier to track than wild animals. People have routines, they tend to come and go from their post at the same time and using the same path daily. This was a boost to the poachers who could now simply track the humans to find the rhinos. Ironic.
Protecting the rhinos is a very complicated endeavor and we haven’t even talked about the corruption it enables. When a live rhino with two horns is worth about $50,000 while one horn sans rhino is $60,000 PER KG; one begins to understand the magnitude of the problem.
It would seem that the only sustainable solution would be to cut demand. Educating people not only about the plight of these animals but also about the lack of effect of rhino horn on any ailments is likely the only way to proceed. May we learn in time to ensure our grandchildren get to share the world with these magnificent creatures.