Sunday, January 26, 2014

South Africa Employs Retired Racehorses in Battle Against Rhino Poaching

Rangers on horseback patrol South Africa's Kruger National Park.

It has been recently reported that former racehorses are being enlisted in the continuous fight against rhino poachers in South Africa. These animals are being used in riding patrols to track down poachers in the midst of an ongoing war, which has put the nation's rhino population on the brink of a disastrous decline. According to ranger Tim Parker, who oversees an anti-poaching unit on a wildlife reserve west of the famed Kruger National Park, the horses allow his team to traverse through terrain inaccessible by foot or vehicles. The horses were brought to South Africa from Zimbabwe by champion racehorse trainer Lisa Harris more than a year ago to help an organization called the Rhino Revolution in its fight to protect rhinos in the area. Since the establishment of the anti-poaching campaign and the introduction of racehorses to help in the battle against poachers, no rhino had been killed which indicated that the plan of using horses appears to be working. Mr. Parker and his team were initially concerned about how the horses would adapt in a reserve that houses some of the most dangerous species of animals including the Big Five, but indicated that poaching is difficult to stop and combating it is a versatile approach. He further added that the only answer to help cease the poaching of rhinos is by legalizing the horn trade. One key figure who agrees with the idea is Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association (PROA). He stated that if the trade in rhino horns is legalized, the government would use the profits to help in rhino protection and preservation. However, not many people agree with this idea. For example, Mary Rice of the Environmental Investigation Agency stated that legalizing would not put an end to poaching and illegal wildlife trade, drawing on the risks of the ivory trade. She argued that increasing the availability of a product such as a rhino horn in a market triggers and bolsters the demand so that markets expand. She further added that both legal and illegal traders regularly take advantage of the system and that there is more illegal ivory than legal ivory on the market place in China.
Authorities help a white rhinoceros attacked by poachers.

It is absolutely amazing to see what new methods wildlife officials implement in the battle to protect endangered species, such as rhinos. The use of horses would most certainly help anti-poaching units to track down poachers through terrain that cannot be accessed through by foot or vehicles, and so far it appears that the plan is working. However, the biggest and most crucial steps in this ongoing war against rhino poaching are not just the methods in battling poachers in the field but the implementation of laws to make it difficult to illegally hunt rhinos and distribute their horns overseas. The idea about legalizing the rhino horn trade would allow the government of South Africa to provide income to help in protecting the animal, but others argue that implementing such a plan would result in growing demand of the product and even result in abusing the market system by both legal and illegal traders similar to how the ivory trade has been functioning. In order to put a stop to poaching and illegal trade of rhinos or other endangered species, it is highly important to treat these crimes the same way as other horrendous criminal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, etc. Furthermore, the methods used in battling organized crimes should also be applied to crimes against wildlife. This way, the threat of poaching and illegal wildlife trade would probably and hopefully come to a stop.

View article and video here    

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