Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rhino Horn Traffickers Use New Tricks

Smuggling rings of Chinese origin are resorting to new methods to get rhino horn out of Africa.  Instead of transporting horns and pieces of horn that are more easily detected, the criminals are manufacturing jewelry and trinkets in southern Africa. A new report by the NGO, Traffic, which monitors the illegal trade says the new practice makes detection much more difficult. It also may mark a change in the consumer demand for rhino horn.  Instead of its perceived value for medicinal purposes (aphrodisiac) wearing it is a social status symbol. 

Only a fraction of horn traffickers are caught.  Traffic says that between 2010 and 2016 about five tons of horn was seized by authorities, yet 6,661 rhinos were officially reported dead due to poaching during the same time period which represents 37 tons reaching the black market.  Seizures are regarded as a tax or cost of doing business by smugglers who adapt quickly to enforcement efforts.  Only 25,000 rhinos remain in the African wild.  Time is running out for the "good guys" to adapt too by eliminating red tape and increasing inter-agency cooperation.