There are more than 4000 one-horned rhinos in the wilds now.
Representational image

Guwahati: The illegal trade in rhino horns continues to drive poaching, with an estimated 1,000 rhino horns being illegally traded each year. This was mentioned in the State of Rhino Report prepared by the International Rhino Foundation.

“Illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest global criminal activity, estimated at between $7 and $23 billion per year. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) estimates from available data that nearly 1,000 rhino horns are illegally traded each year. The majority of seizures occurred in places other than where the rhinos were poached,” the report said.

The report said rhino poaching is conducted by highly-organised, well-funded and often dangerous criminal syndicates that can quickly exploit security gaps and weaknesses.

“Multiple range countries report that though traditional poaching methods have become increasingly unsuccessful, rhino poachers are adapting and changing their methods,” the report said.

The report said catching poachers, hopefully still in possession of evidence such as a weapon, poaching tools or freshly cut rhino horns, is the culmination point of the enormous effort and investment that goes into building an integrated reaction capability.

The total worldwide rhino population is estimated to be fewer than 27,000.

“It is also just the starting point of a lengthy and often frustrating process towards what will hopefully be a successful prosecution. However, identifying and then further investigating more complex cases where suspects are involved in poaching across multiple regions, or from an enabling position – such as giving information on rhino locations or letting poachers posing as tourists in through a gate – is a painstaking process and needs to be conducted within the legal parameters of the country in order for the evidence gathered to be admissible in court,” it said.

Poaching remains the greatest threat to African rhinos. Since 2017, there have been 2,707 recorded rhino poaching incidents in Africa, 90% of which took place in South Africa.

In 2020, when governments implemented COVID-19 mitigation measures, including

lockdowns, there was a significant reduction in poaching – from 3.9% of the continental population in 2018 to 2.3% in 2021. Now that travel has reopened, poaching is on the rise again.

Authorities in India have had great success in significantly reducing poaching through intense security and strict enforcement of wildlife crime laws. In 2021, there was only one recorded poaching incident. There has been only one recorded incident in the first half of 2022 as well.

The report said the need to constantly respond to these changing poaching tactics puts relentless strain on protection and investigation resources.

“Reserves and other stakeholders are using proven technology solutions such as Cmore, WildCrime and EarthRanger to improve the effectiveness of patrol, policing and investigation activities, but are usually constrained by challenges such as a lack of funding to purchase new equipment, inadequate staff capacity and training,” it added.

The report says collaboration, cooperation and intelligence sharing by law enforcement on the national and global levels remain critical to combating the large criminal syndicates that finance the poaching of rhino horns and other wildlife and control the worldwide illegal trade.

“Inclusive approaches at the local level, including shared decision making and livelihood assistance and education, are also key measures to decrease poaching,” it said.

CITES identified the following countries as most impacted by the illegal trade in wildlife either from poaching losses, transit of illegal horn or consumption: South Africa, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Botswana, Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

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