Rhino Poaching Crisis Expands
India Monday lost its ninth rhino to poaching so far this year within the northern state of Assam.
The greater-one horned, or Indian rhino, was found shot dead with its horn removed in Kaziranga National Park. Seven other rhinos have already been killed in the park during 2013, and an additional rhino was poached last month in Manas National Park.
Officials are concerned about the increasing use of sophisticated weapons by poachers. Many of the Assam's rhinos have been gunned down by Kalashnikov rifles. The state has approximately 2,500 rhinos remaining after losing 21 to poachers last year.
The use of high-powered weapons enables poachers to kill the rhinos quickly, cut off their horns and flee before the forest guards can get to the scene.
The proximity of Assam to India's porous international borders with neighbours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar is believed to contribute to availability of arms and also enables poaching gangs access international criminal syndicates engaging in wildlife smuggling.
The primary destination for rhino horns is Viet Nam, where new medical and social uses have emerged in recent years. According to a recent TRAFFIC report, consumers in Viet Nam are willing to pay extremely high prices for medicines made with rhino horn in the mistaken belief that it can cure a number of diseases.
Rising illicit demand for rhino horn has pushed poaching of African rhinos to crisis levels. Poaching statistics released recently by the South African government reveal that a record 668 rhinos were killed across the country in 2012, an increase of nearly 50 per cent from the 448 rhinos lost to poachers in 2011.
Rhino photo via Shutterstock.
Read more at WWF Global.