RHINO 911 featured on ABC News “Nightline” tonight as part of a story on rhino poaching in South Africa. Check your local listings for air times.
“It may seem like a jarring scene — a rhinoceros, sedated, as veterinary staff saw off its horn — but this is now becoming increasingly common across South Africa as farmers and others desperately try to save the animals from extinction. “It’s the lesser of two evils. Do you leave the horn and let someone poach it?” asked the cofounder of the nonprofit Rhino 911, which works to protect rhinoceroses and other wildlife in the country. National parks in South Africa are under siege, plagued by poachers, and Kruger National Park is ground zero. The frequently more than $300,000 reason: the rhinoceros horn, the gold and diamonds of the modern world.
“It’s quite a dangerous park to work in,” said one officer who spoke on the condition that ABC News would blur his face and disguise his voice. In a joint project with ESPN’s E60, ABC News’ Bob Woodruff and team joined the Kruger forensics staff as they investigated their third crime scene on a recent day. There was not much left for them to work with, just a skull. Using metal detectors, the staff searched for projectiles used to kill the rhinoceros. After poachers shoot the rhinoceros, they move in quickly to hack off its horn. Often the rhinoceros is still alive.
A rhinoceros named Vyrsaat survived a similar attack, losing his horn and most of his face. Constant medical care from veterinarian Louis Greef has kept him alive.
Poaching incidents are up by more than 8,000 percent across South Africa, from 13 cases in 2007 to nearly 1,100 in 2016. On average, three white rhinoceroses are killed every day, according to the South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs. Experts say white rhinoceroses could be wiped out in the next few years.
Trafficked rhinoceros horns can be found throughout Asia, from an illegal wildlife market in Myanmar to a black market in Vietnam. Even though the horns are made of keratin — no different than the material found in human fingernails — the horns are coveted for their supposed medicinal value.
Global criminal syndicates will stop at nothing to get them.
The officer told ABC News that there are eight to 12 poaching gangs inside Kruger every single day. He told ABC News that he’d seen 1,500 white rhinoceroses killed in his time at Kruger.
There might be some hope, though, in the form of a nonprofit called Rhino 911.”