A Glimpse Inside South Africa's Poaching Epidemic

November 18, 2016 08.43 AM

This week we were devastated to hear that Hope had passed away. For those that didn't know of Hope, she was the juvenile rhino who became the face of Africa's poaching epidemic following a horrific assault in South Africa's Eastern Cape. In early 2015, Hope and her mother had been hunted and gunned down by South African poachers. Both were found having had their horns cut out by chainsaw - her mother left for dead. Hope, however, was left to wander, partially blinded by her mutilated face, infested with maggots and nasal cavity fully exposed to the bone.

In July, we explored the villages around the park where Hope and almost 3,500 other rhinos in the last three years alone have faced similar, and worse, fates. With 80% of the world’s rhino population in South Africa, the global responsibility lies upon them to curtail this epidemic fueled by Asian superstition that rhino horn remedies everything from cancer to impotence. It’s of little consolation that the country’s Security Minister was implicated this week with links to rhino smuggling, which yields a single poacher upwards of $50,000 per horn. Also unfortunate is the common misconception that tourism is the answer for keeping the country’s rhinos and elephants alive. Those who can help, the majority of the country's luxury lodges, charging guests upwards of $1000 per person/per night, do little more than employ village staff in low-paying labor and service jobs. Thus, the local view of the country’s beloved rhino, and elephant, has largely transformed from a thing of pride, into a lofty prize, which if successfully hunted and bartered can better the lives of an entire village.

Fortunately, similar to a wildlife version of the Red Cross, conservation groups like Saving the Survivors are responsible for rehabilitating the rhino lucky enough to survive a poaching attempt. The caretakers for Hope, Saving the Survivors, undertook medical procedures usually reserved for humans. Hope's bandaged face and curious spirit exploded over social media and news outlets, bringing the rhino-poaching epidemic to light for those whom the woes of the African continent don't usually touch. But alas, after a long, hopeful battle, Hope has joined the 1064 other rhino poached this year alone in South Africa - the only country that can, but won't, do what it takes to ultimately save the rhino.

Please consider a donation to Saving the Survivors in honor of Hope this holiday season.

Written by:

Michael Martin
Editorial Review Author


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