What Christmas means for rhinos

Image of a desert-adapted black rhino

Two days before Christmas last year, trackers working for Save the Rhino Trust, in northwest Namibia, found the carcass of a rhino cow that had very recently been shot and killed. Her horns had been cut off and taken away. Her orphaned calf was rescued but died a couple of days later, having become too severely malnourished and weak.

Credit Save the Rhino TrustThere was a small silver lining to this all-too-frequent event. One of the members of the local Anabeb community, which benefits a great deal from the tourists who visit that part of Namibia specifically to try to see the unique desert-dwelling black rhinos, gave information that led to the swift arrest of the alleged poacher, the recovery of the horns and the confiscation of a firearm. The suspect is in custody awaiting a date for trial.

Christmas is the worst time of year for rhinos. During the last three years, we’ve seen a big spike in poaching in November and December. In early 2013, the rate was just under two per day in South Africa. In the last week of November, the rate was four rhinos per day. Friday 29 November was a truly Black Friday for rhinos.

Full moons are also bad news for rhinos. Poachers use the bright moonlight to track their prey, make the kill, hack off the horns, and make their getaway. We can never look up at the moon with the same innocent pleasure that we used to.

There’s no detailed research on why poaching spikes immediately before Christmas, but many have suggested that it is due to users in East Asia, mainly in Vietnam and China, placing orders with their dealers for rhino horns: the most coveted and statement-making Christmas gift or Chinese New Year’s present.

TCM shop (C) SRIWe’re not King Canute. We know we can’t cancel Christmas and we know we can’t indefinitely postpone the Chinese New Year. What we can try to do is deliver behaviour change campaigns in Vietnam and China. We can, for example, encourage wealthy buyers to choose a smartphone, a shopping trip to Europe, or a flight into space to keep up with the Joneses’.

Then the rhinos’ horns can stay right where they belong: on the rhinos’ heads, and in the wild.

To support the work of Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia, click here.

To support demand reduction programmes in Vietnam, click here.

Photo credits, from top, Steve & Ann Toon, Save the Rhino Trust, SRI

2 thoughts on “What Christmas means for rhinos

  1. The battle will carry on until all Rhino are dead-Criminals win in this Country their is no law and order , we catching the poachers but majority get released with a bribe from their massive criminal underworlds.That is why they carrying on PAOACHING.

    When I flew to Thailand last year on Business I met two gentlemen that where sold Cities permits to sell Lion bone abroad -I asked do you farm lions their answer was we buy from our contacts???

    The ANC takes full blame the reason is bribery and corruption IS RIFE in South Africa we need life imprisonment for poachers caught no back hand bribes. .After all to become a leader in South Africa you have to go to Prison First what message does that give young South Africans.

    The Wildlife is all South Africa can offer the World and our beautiful country .

  2. I am outraged at countries getting away with their horendeous , cruel killings, mutaliations of rhinos, elephants, and the deforestation in Indonesia. Just for palm oil! We need a global, international environmental team effort to stop poachers. If they poach at night, get a crew of anti-poachers with night vision glasses, and stop the poachers and scare them off. We need to have an international cry just as we did for banning fur and let people all over the world to demand stopping ivory from reaching the countries that have a demand for it. We need petitions to our govt., and to all of Europe to stop this from happening! Action is needed. Environmental groups need help from all govt. environmental agencies to get together and find a way to stop abuse/ killings of all wildlife! Most people are unaware of these continued practices. There is a need for news in the newspapers and television media, all media to alert people as to what’s going on. In the United States, some govt. agencies are allowing horse slaughter, which is inhumane and brutal to stop it and we have petitions here in the States to sign, but then again only active environmentalists like myself get the news and petitions if they belong to environmental groups. I have asked people to call their Democratic Senators, and to call our President who has a toll free number to ask for him to tell those agriculture agencies to stop it. Again, there is a tremendous need for all this information to the people of our country and other countries to be aware and contact their countries’ leaders and their own Congresses. It seems to be a never-ending crisis mode for all wildlife and domestic animals as well who need our help to stop all these atrocities. I have a public facebook page where I sign petitions, and then post them on my page, and my reaches the entire United States and Europe if people are browsing and I let those who reach my page all of these atrocities and encourage them to call their Democratic Senators, email them, and to call President Obama who has a live
    secty. to answer phones and submit complaints and they are given to Obama’s staff to review. Katherine Jankay CA 93101 USA

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