The killers approached at dawn on the African plain. Their victim didn’t stand a chance. While she was frolicking with her young as the sun rose, they fired high-velocity weapons from afar. She was thrown to the ground, mortally wounded, in agony. However, the worst was yet to come.
Her assailants drew close and mercilessly hacked away at the defenseless victim. For hours, her two youngsters sat next to their dead, disfigured mother as she lay in a pool of drying blood.
This type of violence, driven by greed, is not rare in some parts of the world. The victims in this case are not humans, but Africa’s population of southern white rhinos. .
The rhino killers are often members of highly trained paramilitary groups. As a result, the frequency of attacks on rhinos has increased dramatically in recent years, to more than 1,200 in 2014 in South Africa alone.
The illicit wildlife trade is a global industry that rakes in billions of dollars every year.
The magnitude of the problem can be seen in the declining numbers of rhinos. In 2007, officials in South Africa reported that 13 southern white rhinos had been poached.
But things quickly took a turn as demand for rhino horns began to grow among Asia’s increasingly affluent consumers. By 2012, the number of poached rhinos in South Africa had risen to nearly 670.
The lucrative trade is attracting criminal syndicates, which have organised poaching gangs. Even though many of the key traffickers are known by name, they operate with impunity, protected by corrupt officials.
Hunting some of the planet’s most amazing species into extinction weakens the rule of law and destabilises communities. This is a crisis that requires an international, multilateral solution.
New software systems like the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool can help make wildlife patrols more effective. Better aerial surveillance, including the use of drones, can make a difference as well.
But it’s impossible to disconnect supply from demand. There is need for a global strategy that encompasses the entire value chain.
It can be solved by collaboration between the conservation organisations, national governments and the private sector, which can bring about change through innovation and investment.
Mr Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group. Email: RichardBranson@nytimes.com.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor