Rhinoceros Poaching in South Africa
By Kelsey Emery
South African wildlife sits on the brink of disaster as rhinos continue to be poached
For years, respected media, such as the BBC, have joined in the fight against rhinoceros poaching, exposing the graphic slaughter that takes place daily.
While reports of the devastation created by poaching are nothing novel, what remains largely unknown is what is at stake if rhinos continue to be killed. What needs to be done to save them. Plenty of exposure has given light to the black market trade of rhino horns, but little has been said about apartheid’s role in the creation of privately owned wildlife, the cultural divide between communities and wildlife, and also the reliance of the economy on tourism.
Often, it is assumed that local residents partake in poaching for money, but more often than not they are the ones protecting rhinos day in and day out. When a rhino is poached, the local population loses a potential source of income via the tourist trade. It is left to committed veterinarians to perform on-call surgeries to try and save the attacked animal.
As a mega-herbivore, rhinos are an important species in their environment with which all surrounding wildlife interact. Without them, the entire ecosystem would change. More importantly without rhinos, there would be little hope for the conservation or protection of other animals. Rhino poaching is only the beginning of a dangerous domino effect that needs to be further exposed.
Kelsey Emery traveled to South Africa to document the untold stories of those affected by poaching. She worked alongside wildlife veterinarian Dr. Will Fowlds who performed procedures on rhinos, learning about poaching and what needs to be done to prevent losing the battle of conservation.