Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rhino Slaughter

South Africa’s Rhino Slaughter

Increasing evidence links South Africa’s rampant rhino slaughter to industry “insiders” who are cooperating with poaching syndicates for a piece of the gruesome pie.

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A  rhino is killed every 41 hours in South Africa.

A recent Africa Geographic article noted that park rangers, senior managers, and even veterinarians are involved in the booming business of slaughtering rhinos.
“… there are insiders at work here and all involved in dealing with rhino at whatever level need to start carefully reviewing their staff.
These syndicates have influential people assisting them who may include rangers, senior managers and private veterinarians.
In fact, rhino poachers wearing ranger uniforms struck Kruger National Park during the World Cup opening weekend.
Who issued official Kruger National Park ranger uniforms to these murderers?

Sport hunting industry penetrated by rhino poaching syndicates
The lucrative rewards for rhino horn – along with easy access to guns, permits, vehicles and charter aircraft – have made the trophy hunting industry a natural breeding ground for rhino poaching and horn smuggling activities.

Last month, Sandhurst Safaris, a trophy hunt operation, was implicated in a major rhino poaching and horn smuggling operation, in which millions in property and assets were seized.
And in 2009, Dwesa Nature Reserve auctioned off the right to kill six rhinos to the highest bidder – which happened to be African Scent Safaris. Afterward, it was confirmed that Vietnamese clients of African Scent Safaris killed two rhinos and had the horns exported to Vietnam.

Vietnam, along with China, is one of the two major consumer markets for rhino horn “remedies”.
An industry based on superstition is making a ‘killing’
Tragically, the lucrative business of killing rhinos to meet the demands of the Chinese “traditional medicine” industry has created an environment that offers irresistible financial temptation to those who have access to rhinos.

Since 2006, rhino poaching has skyrocketed to a 15-year high, indicating a disconcerting correlation with the Chinese pharmaceutical industry’s renewed push for research and development of its “traditional medicine” industry.
Despite the fact scientific analysis has confirmed that rhino horn has no medicinal effect on humans, the superstitious appetite for rhino horn “remedies” remains insatiable among those who still believe the myths about rhino horn.
And rhinos are paying for these medical myths with their lives.

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Four Black Rhino Horns Confiscated from Auctioneers in Ireland

Officials from Ireland’s Department of the Environment have reportedly confiscated four black rhino horns that were about to be sold by an antiques gallery.

The horns were discovered in the gallery’s advertisement section.
After reviewing the photographs that were posted in the ad, staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) paid a visit to Mealy’s Auctioneers in Castlecomer.
According to the Irish Times, auctioneer George Mealy was initially reluctant to turn in the rhino horns. He reportedly claimed that Customs and Excise had informed him there were “no restrictions” on dealing in antique rhino horn, and that the horns belonged to a man whose father acquired them over 100 years ago, during the Boer War in South Africa.
Photo via
However, when an officer from NPWS accompanied by Gardai (Ireland’s National Police) returned with a district court order, the rhino horns were handed over.
Officials explained that the owner of the horns could apply to have the rhino horns returned, but could not sell them.
The Department of the Environment, which is responsible for the NPWS, said that the owner could apply for a certificate which might enable him to have the horns returned but not to be offered for sale.
Following the incident, Mealy’s Auctioneers quickly updated their website, noting that “lots 646 and 647 have been withdrawn” from the November 30th and December 1st sale.
Rhino horn buyers from Ireland
Earlier this month, two rhino horn buyers were arrested in the US when they attempted to purchase rhino horns during an undercover operation.
The pair had allegedly traveled from Ireland to Colorado and paid USD $17,000 to federal agents – a “bargain” price, considering our research has found that illegal rhino horn is valued at $15,000 – $40,000 per kg. The average horn weight for black rhinos is around 2.88 kg and 3.68 kg for white rhinos.
Illegal rhino horn trade infiltrates US, Europe and UK
The illegal rhino horn trade has extended its reach to antique rhino horn items, such as libation cups and trophies.
In an earlier article, Legalized Trade in Rhino Horn: Solution or Smokescreen?, it was noted that a recent perusal of the U.S.-based‘s public forum revealed that several members have been contacted by “suspicious” buyers who were posing as representatives seeking African trophies – rhino horn in particular – for castles or museums.
Photo via Flickr
Members reported receiving the following email from a “John Sullivan” seeking a rhino head mount for the grand opening of a hotel:
Hi, this is john Sullivan here from Ireland, I’m having a grand theme opening of an African seen here in my hotel in Kerry,Ireland.The thing is I’m having grate trouble in locating a real rhino head or horn in Ireland and a local taxidermy told me to email u on the off chance that u might be able to locate this item for me or refer some person or company or even auction that might have one for sale,it has to be the real item and not a fiberglass reproduction. It would be very much appreciated if u could get back to me with good news within a week or 2 as the grand opening will be on 4/sep/2010 and we really need this item.
One member warned about a phone call:
I got your number off taxidermy net. I am from Ireland but live in Brazil. I am looking to buy African mounts and horns and capes, especially a rhino. I have lots of money and can pay cash.
In July, the European Taxidermy Federation (ETF) issued a warning to its members regarding similar activity.
The buyers claim that they are from Ireland or Great Britain and that they have a friend or customer who has a castle, museum or hotel where they want to build up a collection of African trophies. However, it appears that their primary interest is in rhino horn.
Less than a month ago, concerns about illegal activities stemming from legal rhino horn sales prompted UK authorities to tighten regulations for the second time in as many months.
Rhino horn libation cup
In the UK, it is now illegal to sell, or advertise for sale, any rhino horn item without advance clearance by the UK CITES Management Authority. In addition, rhino horn export applications will be approved only if certain conditions are met.

Laundering rhino horn

Legalized trade in endangered species, such as rhino horn, often ends up being used as a smokescreen by dealers and traders who forge paperwork and launder illegal wildlife products.

Photo via news24
In the case of antiques and taxidermy items, rhino horn dealers profit by selling “legally” acquired products for processing into traditional medicines. Rhino horn is in high demand for use in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, despite the fact that rhino horn has been extensively analyzed and actually contains no medicinal properties.
CITES warned earlier this year that antique rhino horn leaking into the illegal market could have serious consequences for the eventual consumer, since the use of arsenic was a common practice in older trophy preparations.
Source: Rare Rhino Horns Seized from Auctioneers.” The Irish Times. 24 Nov. 2010.
Image via Mealy’s Auctioneers
About the author: Rhishja Larson is the founder and Program Director of Saving Rhinos LLC, a public awareness program focusing on the illegal trade in rhino horn. She shares news, opinion, and commentary on her blog Rhino Horn is Not Medicine. She has also been a guest blogger on National Geographic’s NatGeo News Watch, Rhino horn: All myth, no medicine.

Ice - slaughtered for her horn

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