Aspinall foundation calls for more UK government support to protect the rhino from poachers
More than 70 African rhinos have been slaughtered this year in Soputh Africa just for their horns and The Aspinall Foundation has called on the British government to act.
The Aspinall Foundation, which runs wild animal parks at Port Lympne and Howletts in east Kent, says well-equipped, crime syndicates have killed more than 800 African rhinos in the past three years. And the most serious poaching upsurge in South Africa , Zimbabwe and Kenya.
There are only 4,840 Black Rhinos left in the world, whilst White Rhinoshave a population of 20,150. Population numbers are increasing slowly thanks to conservation efforts, but efforts will be wasted if the killing continues.
South Africa alone lost 333 rhinos last year and so far this year has lost more than 70. Most rhino horns leaving Africa are destined for SE Asian medicinal markets, that are believed to be driving the poaching epidemic.
An Aspinall spokesman told this news website: "With almost one rhino a day being lost to poaching, The Aspinall Foundation are adding their voice to the growing campaign of awareness which is urging governments and individuals to address this issue and support the charities that protect them."
The Aspinall Foundation is a leading conservation charity dedicated to keeping John Aspinall’s innovative conservation ethos alive- leading the way through education, captive breeding and reintroduction.
It has projects in other countries, including in Java, Madagascar and Africa. Working in conjunction with its Kent wild animal Parks, Howletts & Port Lympne, The Aspinall Foundation has so far returned to protected areas of the wild Przewalski's horses, Black rhino, Cape buffalo, Burmese pythons and Western lowland gorillas.
The foundation’s Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks in Kent were set up by the late John Aspinall to be centres of excellence for animal husbandry within which to protect and breed threatened species, with a view to returning them to the wild wherever possible.
Howletts and Port Lympne have 19 Eastern Black rhinos, one of the four subspecies of Black rhino. The collection is the largest breeding herd of Black rhino outside of Africa and has bred an astounding 32 calves to date and five have been returned to the wild in Africa. The latest birth was a male born in January at Port Lympne.
Animal Director at The Aspinall Foundation’s Port Lympne Wild Animal Park , Adrian Harland, said today: "Now more than ever breeding programmes like ours play a crucial role in the ongoing survival of Black rhino. Every succesful birth at our parks bolsters the numbers of this fragile species and helps us work towards reintroducing these animals back into protected areas of the wild. All these efforts are just a drop in the ocean however if poaching continues at this unprecedented rate. We need the international community to sit up and listen to these latest shocking reports before it is too late."
Dr. Richard Emslie, scientific officer for the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), said: "Although good biological management and anti-poaching efforts have led to modest population gains for both species of African rhino, we are still very concerned about the increasing involvement of organized criminal poaching networks, and that, unless the rapid escalation in poaching in recent years can be halted, continental rhino numbers could once again start to decline,"
In particular, Vietnamese nationals have been repeatedly implicated in rhino crimes in South Africa .
Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis) currently number 4,840 (up from 4,240 in 2007), whilst White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are more numerous, with a population of 20,150 (up from 17,500 in 2007). Population numbers are increasing, however, with the rise in poaching, there is still cause for concern due to inadequate financial resources available to combat well-resourced organized criminals.
Rhino experts urged greater cooperation between wildlife investigators, police and prosecutors; sensitization of magistrates and judges, and assistance in developing new tools and technologies to detect and intercept rhino poachers and horn traffickers. While the number of arrests have increased there is an urgent need for improved conviction rates and increased penalties for rhino-related crimes are also needed in some countries.
The AfRSG commended recent initiatives to combat poaching, including the establishment of a National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit in South Africa , increasing protection throughout the rhinos’ range, DNA fingerprinting of rhino horn, regional information sharing and engaging with the authorities in Vietnam . In addition, wildlife agencies are working closely with private and community rhino custodians, as well as support organizations, to protect rhinos.
"In South Africa , a large number of rhinos live on private land. Rhino management, including control of rhino horn stockpiles and security, needs to be improved and coordinated among rhino holders," saysSimon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. "This is essential if we are going to face the poaching crisis head on." In some countries, white rhinos are still hunted as trophies. The group noted that some professional hunters have shown questionable and unethical behaviour, adding that improved management of the allocation and monitoring of hunting permit applications, especially in some South African provinces, needs urgent attention.
Find out more about protecting Black rhino by visiting The Aspinall Foundation’s Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks or go to www.aspinallfoundation.org