It is the most valuable wildlife commodity in the world.
Fetching up to $60,000 a pound on the black market, the rhinoceros horn is coveted greatly by millionaires in Asia who use it as a status symbol or grind into traditional elixirs as a aphrodisiac or folk cures for various ailments.
By comparison ivory from poached elephant tusks are going for about $1,500 a pound. That’s chump change compared to rhino horn.
Large-scale poaching of the now critically endangered black rhino resulted in a dramatic 96 decline from 70,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,410 in 1995 according to Save the Rhino, a strictly rhinoceros-based conservation organization.
“Thanks to the persistent efforts of conservation programs across Africa, black rhino numbers have risen since then to a current population of between 5,042 and 5,458 individuals.”
“The overwhelming rhino conservation success story is that of the Southern white rhino. With numbers as low as 50-100 left in the wild in the early 1900s, this sub-species of rhino has now increased to between 19,666 and 21,085.”
But poaching has increased dramatically.
In 2007 there were 13 rhinos poached in South Africa. That number skyrocketed to 83 the next year and by 2015 there were 1,175 rhinos poached. That means one out of every five rhinos was killed drive by the aforementioned Asian market.
There is no end in site to the killing. Despite the use of surveillance drones, shoot to kill policies on poachers in some area and increase awareness, poachers are hitting rhinos and they are hitting them hard.
Some believe the solution to saving the species involves bringing them to Texas.
Hundreds of orphaned baby rhinos could be moved into Texas where they could be kept far away from poachers on highly managed private ranches. The thought process is the gene pool could be preserved while conservationists figure out what to do with the problems in Africa.
I will have a full feature article on this project in the May edition of Texas Fish & Game. I am very excited about the project and the article. In fact, I was so excited I had to tease it a little bit here.
This rhino project has many challenges and we will be covering it in-depth fashion not only in that article but also here.
Chester Moore, Jr.