WWF, the world's largest conservation charity, is celebrating World Rhino Day by calling for more action to end the poaching of the magnificent and threatened giants.
South Africa, which is home to the world's largest rhino population, has acted to tackle a recent rise in poaching by upping sentences for offenders, stepping up their protection regime and bringing more prosecutions.Now WWF is calling for action from the Asian countries where demand for rhino horn products puts such a price on the heads of African animals.
Already this year, 287 rhinos have been killed in South Africa, 16 of them the critically endangered black rhino. Most were killed in the Kruger National Park, a huge draw for wildlife loving tourists.
In response, 165 arrests have been made and the longest sentences for rhino poaching offences have now risen to 12 years imprisonment.
"South African authorities are taking rhino poaching very seriously and are beginning to dismantle the sophisticated criminal gangs that are behind the killings," said Dr. Joseph Okori, WWF's African Rhino Programme Manager. "Putting powerful kingpins behind bars for 10 or 20 years will send a strong message to others not to engage in criminal behaviour."
The latest case, which comes before South African courts next week, will see vets, a pilot and safari tour operators among the accused facing charges of killing and exporting 20 rhinos.
In order to get the message of rhino protection across, South African is meeting delegations from the Vietnamese and Chinese governments this month, and will also use a return journey to Vietnam to push for more action on demand and enforcement cooperation.
"Asian and African governments must work together to disrupt trade chains and to bring wildlife criminals to justice," said Dr. Morne du Plessis, CEO of WWF-South Africa. "Demand for rhino horn and elephant ivory is threatening to destroy a large part Africa's natural heritage. We want to see illegal markets for these products in Asia shut down for good."
You can see a video on work to conserve the black rhino here:
Video: Black Rhino Range Expansion Programme.
Top Image Credit: A rare black rhinoceros baby © Yes2web