The poaching and trade of Rhino horn will continue to happen as long as there is a demand in China and Vietnam for the use of horn in wealthy society. Poaching gangs and syndicates will work in areas of weakness with corruptible officials, one such region that has been hit extremely hard in the most recent years is the Kruger national park in South Africa.
South Africa is home to 79% of Africa’s rhino population. 6000 Rhino have been killed in the last decade, with only 25,000 left in Africa. A fraction of the tens of thousands that used to roam the continent some years ago. The population is split up into 25% black Rhino and 75 % white Rhino.
2 million people live alongside the Kruger national park and the population is sprawling, given its border with Mozambique there are plenty of places for poachers to hide and locals to corrupt. From 2006-2016, 5,460 Rhino’s were killed in South Africa accounting for 84% of Africa’s total losses, with Kruger national park responsible for 60% of that total loss.
Why the Kruger national park South Africa?
The people density surrounding the Kruger and its border with Mozambique make the park an ideal site for poaching activity. Contrary to what many people may think, poachers are dressed in very understated clothing usually scruffy jeans and t-shirts, ill equipped other then a rifle (primarily a CZ 5500 assault rifle) a couple of phones but no radios or night vision, some poachers are even in bare foot. The poachers will enter the park in 3’s or 4’s usually at night under the guidance of the moon. One man a rifle, the other a machete and the third some food and water. At any time in the Kruger there are usually between 5 and 15 groups of poachers in the park searching for Rhino. In 2015, approximately 7,500 poachers entered the park. A typical poacher can earn between USD $ 2000-20,000 for a horn, depending on your rank in the group.
The war has got to a point that between 2010-2015, 120-200 poachers were killed in the Kruger national park. The ground realities are so severe primarily because of the value of Rhino horn in China and Vietnam. A Rhino horn in Vietnam can fetch for USD $ 500,000, twice its weight in gold i.e. if you placed a gold horn onto a rhino you have halved its value.