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The South African government released two important and shocking news items last week. The first announcement revealed that 461 rhino had been poached in the country to date as of July 3—more than were killed in all of 2011. Poachers target the animals for their horns, which are valued in China and Vietnam for their purported (but nonexistent) medicinal qualities. The 2nd announcement was a proposal for the legalization of rhino-horn trade, which is currently illegal under CITES.
. The S African government has stockpiled more than 16,400 kilograms of rhino horns—mostly confiscated from poachers—while private owners possess about 2,000 kilograms more—ironically, mostly horns that have been removed from live animals to make them less attractive to poachers. With rhino horns fetching anywhere from $10000- $40,000 a kilo, the S African government could net half a billion dollars or more from the proposed sale.
experts say the sale would do little more than feed the growing desire for rhino horns and make the situation much, much worse in the long run.History backs them up on this point. Similar one-off sales of ivory to Japan in 1999 and China in 2008 have been linked to the resultant increased demand for ivory in Asia, which has driven elephant poaching across Africa to crisis proportions in the past decade.
.One last note: in the 8 days after the legalization announcement an another 19 rhinos were killed in S Africa, bringing this year's total to 480. Only 140 people have been arrested for the crimes so far this year.