Rhino Poaching Crisis

Rhino Poaching – extinction a serious possibility.

case study courtesy of Professor Donald King:

There’s a health crisis occurring in the Southern African continent.  Yes, the AID’s epidemic is rampant, the other epidemic is threatening the end of a species as we know it today.  Initially, one might think I’m referring to the hunting of large African game—lions and elephant, etc.  And, to some extent this is true.  However, for the purpose of this case study we are going to solely focus on the unfortunate plight of the White Rhino.

The White Rhinoceros, indigenous to the Southern African continent is tragically close to extermination and ultimate extinction for the second time, due to the excessive value of their horns for supposed medicinal purposes in many Asian cultures.  The horn, valued at approximately $60,000 per kilogram (1 kg = 2.2 pounds), yields about 6 pounds of horn for a total market value of approximately $150, 000 per horn.

Initially, 30 African nation states maintained resident populations of white rhinos; today it is down to ten.  It is estimated that 3-4 white rhinos are being killed everyday in the nation of South Africa alone, where over 1000 rhino were slaughtered in 2014.  This was the tipping point year in that the total population numbers are so low that the number of animal being poached now exceed the number being born each year.  Without a tangible remedy or intervention, this species will cease to exist in a very short period of time.

This issue has not gone unnoticed or without attention, as many African nations have instituted laws and penalties banning the hunting, exporting, and sale of these animals or their horns.  In addition, some airlines (through the influence of environmental and animal rights organizations) have instituted policies against the transport of rhino horns. At first glance one might believe these efforts to be appropriate and even perhaps effective in helping to control the killing of the White Rhino.  Unfortunately, the reality of the issue has proved otherwise.

Given the principle/law of supply and demand, the ban on hunting has subsequently worked to increase the demand for rhino horn, thus driving up its cost to the point that it far outweighs any potential risks and consequences associated with being caught.  So, in effect, although the laws on hunting bans had good intentions, the reality is that it actually worked in opposite, and has had an increased negative affect on this issue, thus actually causing the killing of even more white rhinos by means of poaching.  So, no longer are white rhinos being simply hunted, but now they are being “poached” on both private and publicly secured lands.  Rhino’s within game parks and animal reserves are also at risk, and now these establishments maintain high security over these animals.   In some cases rhinos have been moved to other more secure locations.  The notion of moving them to other nations for production purposes is being explored.

To decrease the risk of being caught, poachers have improved upon their “guerilla” tactics through the use of both improved technology and clandestine hunting practices.  So valuable is rhino horn that little expense is being spared.  Infrared night vision optics are used, along with helicopters for expedient entry and exit strategies.  Tranquilizer guns are also common in that they emit a more quiet report (sound) than a traditional rifle.  Once tranquilized the animals collapse.  At that time speed is the key. Because every fragment of horn is worth so much money, no amount is left behind.  In order to secure the entire horn with as much speed as possible, chain saws are now used to rapidly remove the horn from the sedated animal.  Poachers now will now use these saws to cut away the entire top of the rhino nose, taking skull with it. With their booty in hand they make a quick escape, and later separate the horn from the skull.  When the animals awaken they suffer a tragic death.

Study Questions:

1)     Why are current laws and efforts not effective in controlling the destruction of the rhino population?

2)    How might one maintain the species and meet the increasing market demand for rhino horn?

3)    Is it possible to change or alter the Asian market demand for rhino horn?

4)    Are there alternative products available for rhino horn?  If so, can they be massed produced?

Teaching Points:

1)    SWAT Analysis

2)    Ethical Principles

3)    4 P’s –  product, price, placement, promotion

4)    Audience identification – UG, Graduate

5)    Subject areas and disciplines to benefit from this case study

Potential Solutions:

1)    Remove horn?  Still tracked and killed

2)    Farming enterprises

3)    Poison or genetically disfigure the horn

4)    Genetically, through selective breeding, instill breeding practices to create a “polled” white rhino breed.

5)    Utilizing technology, insert a micro tracking chip in the horn for tracking (?)

Recent internet Articles worth reading – these articles will open in seperate unrelated websites

Genetically Accurate Fake Rhino Horn

Consequences of using synthetic rhino horn


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