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Poachers Slay Four Rhinos in South African Sanctuary

Four white rhinos were poached for their horns in a privately owned nature reserve in South Africa this week, taking the total number of rhinos killed illegally in the country in the first three quarters of 2012 to more than 400. The total number of rhinos poached in South Africa in all of 2011 was 448, compared with 333 in 2010.

The four rhinos killed in the most recent poaching incident appeared to have been darted and tranquilized, said Vernon Wait, marketing director at the Lalibela Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.  “The rhino grouped together in a typically protective formation and collapsed under the effects of the tranquilizer.  Most likely while still alive, they were all de-horned by the poachers using saws.”

Three rhinos were found dead in the morning. The fourth, a pregnant cow, was still alive, but barely so, Wait said in an email. “We communicated this to the Department of Environmental Affairs and were given the go-ahead to euthanize the cow.  Our head ranger, Kelly Pote, was given the unpleasant task of putting the cow out of her painful misery.”

The devastation at Lalibela has become an almost daily occurrence across South Africa, a country once recognized as the world leader in the restoration and conservation of the endangered rhinoceros. Earlier this week, the government-run South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that nine rhino carcasses were found in in nature parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal province.

Click on the image to enlarge the Rhino Trade Map, published in the March 2012 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

Spiegel Online reported last month that rhinoceroses’ horns can be sold to markets in Asia for up to U.S. $133 per gram (about $5 per ounce). “That sort of profit margin is generally only possible in drug- or sex-trafficking, so it’s hardly surprising that international mobs control this trade, as well,” the Spiegel article said. “While rhinoceros horns are stolen from natural history museums in Germany, in Kenya and South Africa, poachers hunt rhinoceroses and then transport their loot to Vietnam, Laos and China, where some believe that rhinoceros-horn powder can cure illnesses from cancer to malaria.”

(Read “Rhino Wars,” published by National Geographic Magazine, March 2012.)


“We appeal to you to tell whoever you can about the plight of the rhino and to do whatever you can to stop the carnage.”

“The loss of these four rhinos is a devastating blow for us at Lalibela and rhino conservation in Africa,” Vernon Wait told National Geographic News Watch. “We are mindful that our loss constitutes only one percent of the total number of rhino poached in South Africa this year. This number is now over 400. This incident serves to remind us of the cancer that is greed that exists in our society. People who are prepared to do this for money would be prepared to do anything for money. As custodians of these creatures, we appeal to you to tell whoever you can about the plight of the rhino and to do whatever you can to stop the carnage.”

In the video below, Vernon Wait discusses the poaching incident at Lalibela Game Reserve:


Sustainable Tourism and Local Employment

Lalibela was formed as a partnership of neighboring farms in 2002. Through land incorporation and acquisition, the property now spans 18,500 acres (7,500 hectares), most of it roadless. The reserve has re-introduced many of the large animals that once roamed that part of southern Africa, including the Big Five. According to the Lalibela website, the sanctuary is “a sustainable tourism product that provides employment for our rural community as well as contributing to the survival of many species of endangered game for the benefit of the generations to come. These two aspects are reflected in Lalibela’s stated vision, which is to ‘help develop the Eastern Cape’s natural and human resources in order to grow tourism in a socially responsible and ecologically sensitive way’.”

Lalibela has set up a web page to focus on the loss of its rhinos and what can be done to save the species as a whole.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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  1. Seething South African
    South Africa, Gauteng
    February 12, 2014, 10:05 am

    In my opinon, poachers should have their skin sorn off, thrown in shark infested waters of cape town, then dragged out, barely alive and shot in the stomach then left to bleed out.

    the irony of it is that 99% of the people that buy the horn have never even seen a rhino.

  2. addison
    winimac indiana 46996
    April 9, 2013, 1:35 pm

    its sad

  3. Mark Hartley
    December 1, 2012, 9:07 am

    Tragic. Please can someone do something about this. It cannot be left to go on like this. Is there a world body that can get involved as South Africa does not have the resources to stop this.?

  4. fabiana gonzalez
    November 25, 2012, 7:22 pm

    these people are no more than barbaric savages. how can anyone slaughter these innocent defenceless animals in such a totally brutal way. it is horrendous. God created us together with the animals and all living creatures have the same right to live on this planet. These people are criminals and should die the way they kill. They should have slow painflul deaths and burn and rot in hell.

  5. fabiana gonzalez
    November 25, 2012, 7:18 pm

    I think it is atrocious what these savage, barbaric people are doing. How can anyone slaughter these defenceless, innocent animals in the totally brutal way they do. They are horrendous criminals and should die the way they kill. God created us and the animals and we all have the same right to live on this planet. These grotesque people should die slow, painful deaths and burn and rot in hell.

  6. Danny
    New York
    November 16, 2012, 9:20 pm

    They must be shot on sight! this jail theat is Bull shit will not help, has not scared them, they must be Stopped, in the most feared way. Shot dead at once..who is stopping them from being shot? Danny

  7. Patrick
    November 9, 2012, 10:11 am

    The solution is very simple. Abolish the Asian markets for rhino horns and stop this evil once and for all! What right have we to deny our future generations what nature intended them to see? Nkt!!

  8. Mr.Vinh
    October 2, 2012, 9:47 pm

    Excuse me ! Someone in this topic said that Asia is a stupid culture ? no , just someone ! i don’t ! i don’t know the thought that rhinoceros can cure illness is true or not , but the people who kill those rhinos is guilty , if they don’t supply the buyers , there’s not buyers like that anymore ! … don’t judge anyone , judge the poachers !

  9. Hiccup
    October 2, 2012, 4:15 pm

    This is a tragic sight. A Chinese executive at Foxconn goes to the local pharmacy to get over his aches and pains; Rhino Horn, why yes! Now to the office I go to ensure we produce more iPhones, in an oppressive one child state, for those western children. The Rhino is just part of business as usual. Very sad.

  10. Pedro Barata
    October 2, 2012, 6:04 am

    These acts are purely inadmissible. Responsible and local authorities need to pursuit these butchers and to punish them. It’s an atrocity because it’s merelly for financial purposes. Absolutely outrageous!

  11. gaspar
    October 2, 2012, 2:51 am

    The problem is some chinese or even asian stupid culture, they eat everything all over the world. It doesn,t matter to them if the species are or not in dangerous, whales, sharks, etc. If the world is not able to change or to forbid this stupid culture they will destroy the biodiversity ot the planet in a few years… The rest of the world should think quickly about this matter

  12. E Salazar
    new york
    October 2, 2012, 1:24 am

    i will like to see the people that comit his horrendous crime in prison and get what they deserve, Im so sorry for those beautiful creatures have to die for nothing because the horns dont have any properties well only one to make the RINO look good,and UNIQUE

  13. BermudaTriangle
    October 1, 2012, 1:02 pm

    Absolutely ridiculous! Just another piece of evidence that Humans are a cancer…and if left unchecked, will destroy this planet and everything on it!

  14. ken
    October 1, 2012, 12:37 pm

    vary sad

  15. kayley briand
    October 1, 2012, 10:34 am

    that is so sad who would do that makes my sick to think that some one would do that.

  16. abdaul khair
    October 1, 2012, 10:27 am

    Wow….. Amazing pict. for amazing bad future

  17. ector lopez
    new era,michigan
    September 29, 2012, 8:39 pm

    Outrageous, these people need help to stop these atrocities poor animals poor humans.

  18. LFB
    September 29, 2012, 4:13 am

    Oh my gosh… that is so shocking and sad. Also, people are going to lengths of entering a sanctuary and just sawing off the horns… of course, traditional Asian cures don’t have a reputation for being nice, like the Asian black bear bile…