In what has been called a “reversal of fortune” one rhino fought back last week in the southwest African nation of Namibia. When animal poaching seems to be at its worst, local media reported one “appeared from nowhere” to turn the tables on a suspected poacher. This time it was rhino – “1” and poacher – “0.”
According to Sky News, the incident occurred in Etosha National Park after poaching suspect Luteni Muharukua and his accomplices illegally entered the wildlife preserve intending to kill rhinos for their horns. Rhino horns are not made of bone; they are made of keratin, a protein also found in hair and fingernails; the horns will grow back if trimmed. Every year or two South African rhino farmers tranquilize their animals with darts and trim the horns, secure the valuable products in a vault and hope someday it will become legal again to sell. Poachers kill the rhinos and sever their horns off to sell on the black market for astronomical money.
Police Officer Simson Shilongo stated the rhino chased him, inflicting a serious injury to the man’s leg. Muharukua fled and hid in the nearby mountains and was arrested one day after the incident.
Within the last few weeks, 36 suspects between the ages of 22 and 40 have been arrested on rhino poaching charges.
The National Geographic reports South Africa is home to nearly 70 percent of the 29,500 rhinos left on Earth; a sizable decrease from several hundred thousand in Africa during the 1800s before human settlements grew. Of the rhinos five species remaining are: the white rhino, with some 20,400 remaining; the black, with 5,250; the greater one-horned; the Sumatran; and the Javan. South Africa’s Private Rhino Owners Association owns 6,200 of the species, and they are used commercially for photographic safaris, legal hunting, horn production, and breeding.
On the black market in South Africa, the horn of the white rhino sells for up to $3,000 a pound, and in Asia it sells for many times over that price and used as status symbols and traditional medicines.
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