Demonstrating death--rhino dies during operation

An adult female rhino and calf feeding in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

The death of a rhinoceros in South Africa while being fitted with supposedly life-saving devices has highlighted the desperation of conservationists to save this threatened species.

“Desperate circumstances have brought about a situation where extreme and even outlandish measures are now being used to save rhinos,” said Jason Bell, Country Director of the Southern African office of IFAW and Director of IFAW’s Elephant Programme (IFAW- www.ifaw.org).

A 20-year old white rhinoceros died during a media event held in Johannesburg yesterday and intended to demonstrate high-tech methods available to protect rhinos from poachers. The rhino had been sedated to be fitted with a microchip, GPS device and a compound toxic to humans--all intended to protect the rhino from being poached for its horn. The cause of death is yet to be established.

“The death of this rhino is tragic because it demonstrates once and for all that managers and conservation authorities are quite simply at a loss as to how to fight the onslaught of illegal poaching of species like elephants and rhinos and trade in their ivory and horns," Bell said.

“Until we see a greater cooperation among enforcement agencies to combat illicit trade, the current poaching crisis will continue," Bell added. Poaching and illegal trade involves organized crime syndicates and anything other than a focused, cooperative approach by the international community is bound to fail.” 

So far this year, more than 30 rhinoceros have been poached for their horns in South Africa and, in 2011, 448 rhinos were poached--25 per cent up on the number of animals killed in 2010.

The major market for rhino horn and elephant ivory is the East, with China the major consumer of products.

Bell said the notion that a legal trade in rhino horn and ivory would reduce poaching and save animals ignored historical evidence that the approach did not work.

“We cannot approach conservation from the standpoint of economic sustainability, and ignore biological sustainability, animal welfare and ethics," he said. "And, even if economics were considered, it is unlikely that a regulated trade will ever fulfill market expectations."

“Sadly this stunt to demonstrate alternative methods that might save rhinos went very wrong. It directed attention away from the real tragedy--which is that rhinos and elephants are dying every single day in an onslaught that will not stop until we take a consistent, cooperative approach to ending poaching, and thus the trade, once and for all.” 
  
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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