Surge In Rhino Poaching In Namibia Part Of Troubling Trend Worldwide

Dr. E.C. Beuck
Rhino and calf in reserve.Photo byByrdyak via Wikimedia Commons

This past year an all-time high of 87 rhinoceros were killed in Namibia according to the official government data there. This surge is a dramatic increase to nearly twice the number of the endangered species killed as compared to the previous year. Though hundreds of thousands of rhinoceros once lived across Asia and Africa at the start of the twentieth century, sustained poaching has plagued Africa and Asia for decades now, which, when combined with habitat destruction, has meant that the different populations of this majestic species have been reduced to critically endangered status. Even anti-poaching programmes, such as strict policing and dehorning of the adult animals to deter poachers, has not been effective.

The demand for rhinoceros horns is spurred in large part by demand from people in Asian countries striving to show off their financial success and for use in folk medicine. As might be expected from this, wildlife crime is a big business internationally, run by extensive international networks that mimic the structure, function and secrecy of those who participate in the illegal drug and arms trades. As a result it is difficult to accurately assess the true degree of this illegal trade, though experts have estimated it to amount to billions of dollars every year.

Despite progress continuing to be made against poaching, things like corruption and laws that don’t adequately deter poaching activities, when combined with still high demand, has meant that the illegal wildlife trade has remained a low-risk business with the potential of high returns. While there was a slump in poaching as the recent pandemic unfolded around the world, conservation groups are already raising alarms that economic fallout resulting from this will lead to efforts to curtail poaching being undermined. With the pandemic continuing to subside, and borders increasingly loosening, we might expect a new surge in poaching to occur as a result, which will most likely go beyond the endangered rhinoceros populations to harm many other endangered or at risk species.

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Holding a PhD in Political Science, I write about current events and on political topics related to international relations, international law, conflict both between and within states, and the interactions between technology and politics.

Washington, DC

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