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Thursday 13th August 2009
Rhino Poaching Set to Hit 15 Year High

Increased demand fuelled by the Asian traditional medicine industry has caused increased levels of Rhino poaching throughout southern African nations. An average of twelve rhino killings a month were recorded in South Africa and Zimbabwe alone this year, that's up from just three recorded rhino deaths per month on the whole of the African continent between 2000 and 2005. If this trend continues, annual illegal rhino killings are on track to hit a 15-year high.

The rhino horn is believed to harbour medicinal properties in some branches of traditional Asian medicine. It can be prescribed for a number of ailments, including fever, headaches and food poisoning. Lack of broad education in more remote provinces means that many patients don not know where their medicine comes from, or even that the animal is an endangered species. The WWF states that there is increasing evidence of the involvement of Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese nationals in the illegal trade of rhino horns.

There is also some evidence of western hunters turning to poaching to avoid the long selection process for the few legal big game hunts in Africa featuring rhinos.

The South African Government declared a "war on rhino poaching" in June this year. They announced major funding to increase the number of rangers patrolling rhino rich areas and a system of implanting microchips in both rhinos and their horns. The military will also patrol the edge of the Kruger National Park to protect the rangers themselves. In the past, rangers have faced violence and intimidation from well-armed and determined poachers.

The situation is far worse in neighbouring Zimbabwe due to the political instability of that nation. There are reports of a large increase in rhino poaching throughout Zimbabwe. A small portion of these killings are attributed to desperate starving families, killing for food, but the majority are thought to be carried out by criminal gangs, solely for profit. With the current political climate, these gangs operate with impunity and have even been known to shoot at those protecting the rhinos.

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