Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Rhino poaching taking heavy toll in Zimbabwe

Rhinos are still one of the favorite targets for poachers as the latest example in Zimbabwe shows. We already talked about rapid decline in rhino population, and how three out of currently left five species are listed as critically endangered. The current rhino situation in Zimbabwe is alarming. In the last 12 months more than 100 rhinos were killed in Zimbabwe. This is the result of big money offered by Chinese black market to poachers because in China rhino horns are famous as traditional medicine, and are also used for ornamental dagger handles in some countries of the Middle East.

Poaching gangs in Zimbabwe are well organized, and they are also taking full advantage of the fact that country is currently experiencing total economic collapse where nobody respect current laws, and where people are actually doing everything it takes to get to money. All environmental experts agree that rhino situation in Zimbabwe is critical. The remaining number of rhinos in Zimbabwe is somewhere between 400 and 700, and not so long ago there was more than 1000 rhinos in this African country.

In one year more than 100 rhinos were killed in Zimbabwe

If current poaching trend continues Zimbabwe could soon lost all rhinos, and many believe that government isn't taking this situation seriously. Some even say that there are some corrupt ministers in the government that also share profits from rhino poaching. Government is of course convincing public that is doing all what it can to prevent poaching but that is really far from truth. It's true that they have de-horned some rhinos and moved them to safe areas but large number of rhinos still remains a fairly easy target for poachers. But since the horns regrow this is really of very little use to save the rhinos because process has to be repeated periodically to be successful.

Poachers have different methods of horn removing. Poachers use an axe, brutally disfiguring rhino's face. And the worst part is that poachers don't reverse the tranquillizer, so in most cases rhino dies from overheating. Even if poachers do get caught most of them are freed on minimum bail because country is so poor that there is even not enough fuel to drive poachers to court.

It has to be also said that government did introduce army and police in conservation areas and national parks to protect the animals, but this action hasn't turned into success because some soldiers even became poachers themselves, and some are not doing their duty just to get their share of profits.

It is very difficult to tell what is needed to save rhino population in Zimbabwe. Government said many times how it sees ecotourism as major factor that will revive economy in Zimbabwe but this will be very difficult if current decline of wildlife continues because there won't be any animals left to attract the tourists.

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