Rhino poaching big problem in S. Africa

Aug. 12, 2012 at 10:42 PM

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Increased rhinoceros poaching in South Africa has authorities scrambling to combat the often-deadly practice, officials said.

So far this year in South Africa, 281 rhinos were killed for their horns, up from the 13 dead rhinos found in 2007, SpiegelONLINE reported Sunday.

After poachers obtain the horns, they smuggle them out of South Africa and into countries such as Vietnam, Laos and China, where they are made into a powder some believe can cure illnesses from cancer to malaria.

Authorities in South Africa are discussing the best way to combat rhino poaching. Suggestions have included preemptively cutting off or poisoning their horns, or even deregulating their trade.

The proposed solutions, however, all have their drawbacks, officials said.

Cutting off rhinos' horns leaves them vulnerable in the wild, said William Fowlds of South Africa's Kariega Game Reserve, which removed all of its rhinos' horns earlier this year.

"Rhinos need their horns to protect themselves from enemies and thorny underbrush," Fowlds said.

"Deregulation would only increase the trade," said Miranda Jordan of Activists for Animals Africa.

As of right now, special units formed of police, customs authorities and national park rangers work together to combat the poaching, however few believe police action alone will be enough to stop the killing, the report said.

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