Brutal rhino poaching methods have escalated in South Africa, which is currently home to about 70 per cent of the remaining rhinos in the world.
The rhino poaching statistics says it all.
For the first time in almost a decade, the number of rhinos poached in South Africa, declined from the record number of 1,215 rhinos poached you see in the above graph to 1,175 in 2015.
This slight reduction was mainly as a result of the translocation of rhinos to more secure reserves, and improved security around Kruger National Park where the most rhinos in South Africa stay.
The result of this trend?
Their conservation status is now:
Demand from China and Vietnam have elevated the price of rhino horns to new levels.
There have been reports that rhino horn has been fetching prices as high as US$50,000 per kg.
This is similar to the street price for cocaine in the UK.
This demand has obviously resulted in a big surge in the number of rhino poaching incidents.
Rhinos have very poor eyesight and they cannot see stationery objects even just a few meters away from them.
Their hearing is however very acute and they also rely mainly on their well-developed senses of smell to warn them of approaching danger.
At the lower end of the spectrum of poachers you find subsistence poachers.
They are usually from poor communities are driven by poverty and hunger.
Subsistence poachers are usually on foot and will shoot the rhino with random fire to the head and chest area, as well as the legs in order to immobilize the animal.
They will then remove the horns very roughly using an axe.
These poachers take high risk for comparatively little reward.
They will usually pass the horns to a syndicate member after the job is done.
At the higher end of the spectrum you will find professional poachers.
They have well-structured operations and use high technology methods which involve -
These professional poachers are driven by a desire for financial gain and sheer greed.
This group sometimes involves experienced criminal gangs that are part of a more organized and structured group.
Some of the indicators that skilled professional hunter are also involved.
One tell tale sign is the fact that in some cases it is clear that the rhinos have been felled with one single well-placed shot to the head or body.
The high-tech aerial attack will be done darting the animal from the air with tranquillizer guns.
takes less than seven minutes to bring down the animal.
When they land the helicopter, they hack of the horns with a chainsaw.
The use of a helicopter allows for easy access and quick getaways.
Several media reports have indicated that the registration numbers on the tail of the aircraft get covered up or falsified during the operation.
The rhino subsequently dies either from an overdose of tranquillizers or bleeds to death.
One troubling fact is that the methods being used by the syndicates often reflect those used by wildlife capture operators in professional rhino management operations.
The rhinos are normally darted with a dosage of lethal drugs that may result in a quick death, although some evidence shows that the animal suffered great stress before death.
If the drug dosage had been too low to kill the rhino the animal is likely to wake during the brutal removal of the horns with a chainsaw.
The severely maimed rhino will then attempt to breath through a cavity in its nasal passage between its eyes.
This rhino will have no sense of smell and if it survives will have a great battle to fight off any secondary infection.
Increasing evidence links South Africas rhino poaching with wildlife industry insiders.
These individuals are obviously in a great position to run wildlife crime syndicates and are typically also well funded and connected within the industry.
There are also rumors that rhino poaching syndicates are penetrating the hunting industry.
The hunting industry obviously has access to guns, permits, vehicles and charter aircraft making them target for rhino poaching syndicates.
These rumors seem to have merit because of the increasing number of arrests of -
Unfortunately there is no simple and obvious solution to this problem.
There is currently numerous proposals in the pipeline and some heated debates around opinions which include the following:
Graph credit: rhinosurvival.org
Like the graph indicates, should the current trend continue, these African animals will be poached into extinction as soon as the year 2025.
The sheer extend of the challenge and the cruelty of what we are up against is overwhelming but we must definitely not give up without a fight.