There seems little doubt that the hottest topic in African wildlife conservation this century is rhino poaching. And with good reason. Statistics tell us the sad story of unprecedented levels of poaching and trafficking, as well as spiralling demand and emerging new markets for rhino horn. The reality is that under the present rate of extermination, African rhino populations are perilously
As a passionate advocate for conservation based tourism, we at African Travel
Gateway have lent our voices in support of rhino protection. Although we may not be capable of running security patrols, or infiltrating poaching networks, we believe in the power that the safari & tourism industry has in disseminating information.
Take the grand myth of rhino horn as a medicine, for example. The greatest demand for illegal horn is within the traditional medicine industry in China and Vietnam, where it is believed to cure a variety of ailments ranging from headaches to cancer. With about 250 million middle class Chinese consumers entering society in the next 15 years, the demand is set to sky-rocket. But in truth, as proved in numerous laboratories, rhino horn contains no medicinal properties whatsoever. It consists rather of keratin, a protein-like substance commonly found in hair, nails and feathers.
Against all the skewed odds, we need to believe there is hope. Due to pioneering conservation practices, South Africa is well known as the ‘rhino capital of the world’, as the country boasts a population of some 17 500 white rhino, perhaps 85% of the total numbers of animals living in the wild. Our western neighbour, Namibia, supports the largest black rhino population in the world (they actually occur in an unfenced region).
And this is where eco-tourism has immense value. While enjoying these magnificent creatures out on a sun-soaked African plain, our vigour to educate, to dispel myths, to lobby, to support groundwork, and to swing the pendulum in the favour of rhino awareness in any way we can, is greatly renewed.