Rhino mass killings feed Asian sex meds
Flies buzz around a hulking pile of flesh and muscle that lies rotting in Kruger National Park, with its eyes gouged out and scimitar-like horns hacked off in the opening scenes of a shocking new documentary on rhino poaching.
A series of still-photos of other gruesome kills flash across the screen in Rhino Under Threat, a deeply disturbing 28-minute film available on YouTube that's been made to drive home the horror of a rhino poaching crisis which has reached alarming levels. The video was made by UNTV and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
South Africa, home to the vast majority of the planet's rhinos, is the epicentre of the unfolding tragedy. According to the latest data from South Africa's department of environmental affairs, 245 rhinos have been poached so far in 2012. At this rate the carnage will exceed the 448 slain last year.
Elephant and rhino poaching is surging, conservationists say, an illegal part of Asia's scramble for African resources, driven by the growing purchasing power of the newly affluent classes. Rhino horn has long been used in traditional medicines in China and Vietnam, and the film quotes a doctor at Hanoi's biggest hospital who sings its praises.
According to the film, rhino horns have also been stolen from museums and private collections in more than 15 countries. It says Vietnam's last wild Javan rhino was poached last year and the slaughter in Africa is relentless.
"It's heart-rending," Ted Reilly, the head of Big Game Parks in Swaziland, says in the film. The small southern African kingdom lost its first rhino to poachers in two decades last year.
"You will find a rhino cow with a baby calf. The mother goes down and that calf usually will defend the mother. It won't allow the poachers to get anywhere near it. And they end up having to shoot it too," he says.
The horn and half the face is then cut off with a chainsaw and Ted says they have had instances where rhinos who had been drugged then wake up and stagger around in this state. "How do you deal with people like that?" he asks.
For the game wardens on the front lines, feelings toward them can certainly harden. "I suppose the brutality of it is being lost on me at the moment. And to survive the emotional side of it one gets hardened. It's like seeing dead poachers now. I've seen enough this year not to worry about them anymore," said one Kruger Park ranger.
Published: 3rd July 2012