How Rhino Poaching is Funding Terrorism

Gretchen Healey / Published April 04, 2014 10:22 PM
This article originally appeared on Epicure & Culture. To view it in its entirety, please visit:

http://epicureandculture.com/rhino-poaching/

Something 50 million years in the making is on track to be wiped out in a matter of a few decades. The rhinoceros — essentially the world’s last dinosaur — is being relentlessly hunted and slaughtered for its horn. Comprised of keratin, just like your hair and fingernails, rhino horn is worth double its weight in gold at latest estimates. The horn is being used for myriad ‘cures’ in traditional Asian medicine, from arthritis to cancer, despite being illegal and medically useless.

South Africa is home to the world’s largest remaining population of rhinos, but it is also where you’ll find the greatest amount of violence against the animals, with one being killed on average about every nine hours. The white rhino species is the most abundant at 20,000+ animals, but estimates put their tipping point — at which more animals are being killed than are being born in a given year — within the next year or two.

Conservation Efforts

Thus far, few efforts have been fruitful in stopping the killing, as the prize is just too great for poachers. Conservationists and researchers are working on devising any means possible to protect the species, from poisoning living rhino’s horns to using drones to spot poacher activity. Additionally, there are new efforts underway to try and reduce the length of the breeding cycle, as well as discussions about possibly synthesizing horn. Both are innovative approaches to mitigating the problem and could make some inroads.

Translocation is another approach to protecting rhinos. The government of Botswana has an initiative to restore its rhino population (which was poached out in 1992) with animals translocated from South Africa, the epicenter of today’s poaching crisis. There are several African-based tourism companies with efforts in this area, including Great Plains Conservation (GPC), &Beyond, and Wilderness Safaris. The latter is planning to translocate an unspecified (due to security) number of black rhinos sometime in the first quarter of 2014, and GPC and &Beyond plan to translocate up to 100 animals in 2015 if they are able to secure funding.

Rhino Poaching And Terrorism

The darker side to the slaughter of rhinos is the money trail from poaching activities. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, an independent organization committed to protecting the natural world from environmental crime and abuse, the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn is funding terrorism. For example, ‘Up to 40% of al-Shabaab’s (a Somalia based al Quaeda linked terrorist group) money comes from … buyers.’ Ultimately, it is the consumers of ivory and horn that are funding al Shabaab, helping them to purchase weapons and explosives which they use to carry out terrorist activities, such as last year’s attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

Perhaps worst of all, the people of Africa (and India, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia) are being robbed of their heritage. Tourism is an immensely important part of GDP for countries that have rhino populations, and it is one of the few activities that passively protect the rhino.

To view the entire article, please visit - http://epicureandculture.com/rhino-poaching/

All photos © Gretchen Healey text

Comments


Simon Fletcher

Commented April 09, 2014 04:22 PM
Gretchen, your images are inspiring and your narrative all too disappointingly true. Well done for adding your voice to the millions who are disgusted by the human race's efforts to destroy our heritage.

Simon

Gretchen Healey

Commented April 13, 2014 11:06 PM
Thanks, Simon. I really appreciate your feedback.

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Gretchen Healey
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Gretchen Healey
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