The latest statistics about rhino poaching in South Africa released this week provide both encouraging signs, as well as new trends which raise concern, says wildlife poaching expert Richard Emslie.

He said Thursday that there were signs that rhino poaching might be slowing down but it was a matter of concern, however, that rhino horn might be becoming an investment item as opposed to being used for medicinal purposes or as a status symbol.

In KwaZulu-Natal Province, conservation and law enforcement agencies are adapting to new anti-poaching tactics after tough measures in the Kruger National Park led to poachers targeting the province.

Emslie said the good news in the war against rhino poaching was that the rate at which it is increasing is slowing down. In South Africa, 702 rhinos have been poached between the start of the year and the end of August, down 125 from the same period last year.

However, Emslie is concerned that rhino horn is now used to make artefacts in Asia where they are becoming an investment item, as opposed to being a medicinal ingredient or pure status symbol.

“There’s been a change. There’s more and more varied quality products in terms of carvings — for example combs or bowls or other things — coming onto the market in Vietnam. And there’s more use of horn as luxury goods, also more indication that horn may be used as an investment.”

Delegates at a symposium of conservation practice in Howick, just over 100 kilometres northwest of here, heard this week that people in Asia bought ivory artefacts after the 2009 global financial crisis to safeguard their money.

Speaking at the symposium, Emslie said 5.3 percent of Africa’s white rhino population was being poached annually and he warned that there was very little margin left between the poaching rate and the rhinos’ natural population growth rate. The species will not be able to withstand much longer, sustained increases in poaching.

Emslie was, however, encouraged by the fact that the South African government was now treating poaching as a threat to national security.


[related_post themes="flat" id="136765"]