Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rhino Poaching Surges in Asia, Africa

The sad news is that rhinos all over the world are being poached at an alarming rate. Asian demand for horns and sophisticated new ways to poach are taking a toll on the rhino populations. Zimbabwe has the most serious problem as the rhino numbers decrease and the conviction rate for these crimes is only 3 percent. Even new measures to stop the poaching in South Africa have been instituted, the poaching there is still on the rise. The director of the Species Programme at WWF International has called on all the countries of concern to outline specific actions they are going to take to protect rhinos in the wild. Not only is this a problem with African rhinos, but the Sumatran and Javan rhino range countries need to increase their enforcement efforts and improve the management of the remaining rhinos.

Most of the rhino horns that leave South Africa go directly to southeast and east Asia, especially Vietnam and China. The medicinal markets highly prize rhino horns. Vietnamese nationals in South Africa have been identified in rhino crime investigations. When there is political will, conservation groups will ensure better law enforcement and conservation programs for these animals. There has been some success in areas and the rhino population has shown some increase.

Having been to Zimbabwe and seen these impressive animals up close, I will increase my efforts in the classroom to teach students about the importance of conserving all of the living things on our planet (well maybe leave out the cockroaches). I have video of (believe it or not) a "tame" wild rhino I was allowed to feed and pet while on safari in Kenya. I would share this with the students to generate interest, place them into small groups to brainstorm ideas to save the rhinos, and challenge them to do something to help. (write letters, make posters, make a "Save the Rhino" website, etc.)

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