A white rhino lies dead in the Kruger National Park. Its leg and back have been gashed open, its eyes have been gouged out, and its horn hacked off. As flies gather around the carcass, a team of rangers cut into its flesh. A metal detector probes the dead beast for darts or bullets.
The scene cuts to an unidentified Vietnamese man, who tells viewers he bought a rhino horn because his friend told him it would help him.
“I decided to buy it because I’m getting old and I need some medicine,” he says.
This is the opening of a new 28-minute YouTube video, titled “Rhinos Under Threat”, which was launched by UN’s TV and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) at the Rio+20 global environment conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last week in a bid to drive home the horror of the rhino poaching crisis.
The film includes images of rhinos that had been hacked, with blood dripping from their ears. Game park owners and rangers, wildlife veterinarians and a South African prosecutor are interviewed on the brutal killings.
The video, which has been viewed close to 15 000 times, also reveals that rhino horns have been stolen from museums and private collections in more than 15 countries.
“It’s heart-rending,” says Ted Reilly, head of Big Game Parks in Swaziland, in the video.
“You will find a rhino cow with a baby calf. The mother goes down and that calf will usually defend her.
“It won’t allow the poachers to get anywhere near it, and they end up having to shoot it, too.”
Swaziland lost its first rhino in two decades to poaching last year.
Reilly explains that half the rhino’s face is cut off with a chainsaw. “We’ve had instances where rhinos who have been drugged wake up and stagger around in this state,” he says.
According to a statement released last week by the Department of Environmental Affairs, 251 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year, 26 in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The Kruger National Park has lost a total of 149 rhinos since the beginning of the year, with six rhinos being poached in just seven days,” said department spokesman, Albi Modise.
He said 170 people had been arrested in connection with the poaching – 147 poachers, “10 receivers and couriers”, six buyers and seven exporters.
“Sixty-seven arrests have been made in KZN, compared with 82 for the whole of last year,” Modise said.
Even British royalty has taken action against poaching. In an interview with the BBC, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, called poaching “extremely ignorant, selfish, and utterly wrong”.
The duke, who is a royal patron of the Tusk Trust, an NGO formed in response to the need to protect Africa’s natural heritage, emphasised the need for education regarding rhinos.
“We need to make people aware of how delicate and how fragile these animals are, and how much damage we’re doing to them, and to the wildlife and natural eco-system around them just by our neglect and ignorance,” he said.
* To report any incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrests, call 0800 205 005.