The white rhino recovery was a huge success story- from a low of just 60 animals the population rose to over 20,000, the biggest single population, lying within the huge Kruger national park.
Unfortunately, while China has slowly got their illegal wildlife trade under control (still a big problem, but for rhino, nowhere near the biggest) Vietnam and Laos, have seen a demand for rhino horn rocket.
Rhino horn is supposedly a cure for all sorts of ills, and it is claimed to be part of Chinese or Asian medicine for centuries. In actual fact, there is no health benefit (multiple scientific and medical studies have been done) and indeed if there was our own finger nails would work just as well as they are made from the same material.
In 2007 they lost only a handful of rhino to poachers, however this increased dramatically. Since 2013 the number of rhino in the Kruger has fallen by 59%,a staggering reduction in the white rhinos last serious stronghold.
Obviously such a fall in population also effects numbers being born, so makes a recovery slower.
These new population numbers put falling poaching numbers in perspective – if there are just ⅓ of the rhino it gets far harder for them to be found.
We can only hope that with the eyes of the world on South Africa, the government pulse is act together, increases ranger numbers and halts this horrendous fall.
Rhino are currently farmed in a few places in South Africa, with one farmer having over 1600 (at least of a year ago). This farm has financial problems in the past, perhaps the government could pay to put a thousand or so of these animals back into the Kruger?