(A version of this article was originally published in The Horn, spring 2013. Author: Katherine Ellis, Office and Communications Manager, Save the Rhino International)
During 2012, 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone. That’s one every 13 hours. Over the past six years, rhino poaching has increased by a staggering and unprecedented amount and is mainly attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn from Vietnam. So can this surge in demand be tackled?
This is not the first time that rhinos have faced such a crisis. From the late 1970s through the mid 1990s, most rhino populations were ravaged by phases of intensive poaching to support the traditional rhino horn trade for medicine in Asia and jambiya dagger handles in Yemen. Many countries saw their black rhino populations falling to drastically low numbers or completely disappear. Overall black rhino populations declined by an estimated 97.6% from 1960 to 1994, with numbers reaching a low point of 2,410. The Northern White Rhino fared even worse and was virtually eradicated from throughout its range in the Democratic of Congo and Sudan, before eventually being declared extinct in the wild in 2011. So who was driving this initial poaching crisis and how was it stopped?