Poachers vs. Rhinos
The population of rhinos left roaming our planet is disturbingly low. There were once millions of these beautiful creatures across Asia and Africa, but by the end of 2015, conservationists estimated only around 30,000 rhinos were left in the wild. Threats to rhinos include habitat loss and poaching for rhino horns. According to savetherhino.org, poachers have killed at least 5,940 rhinos since 2008. Despite conservation efforts, poaching is still increasing and the rhino is inching closer toward extinction.
Recently, millions of people read the horrific story of a rare white rhino killed for his horn at a French zoo. The 4-year-old rhino, named Vince, was found shot in the head with its horn sawed off by a chainsaw. This disgusting act of poaching grabbed everyone’s attention, and people everywhere are eager to end this vicious treatment of these innocent animals.
One park in India is taking extreme initiatives to protect its wild animals. Kaziranga National Park is protecting its wildlife by shooting poachers dead. This very controversial method of keeping their animals safe from poachers has worked, but at the expense of human life. The rangers at this park have been given the power to shoot and kill any poachers that come close to the rhinos. At one point, the park rangers were killing an average of two people every month. In 2015, more people than rhinos were shot and killed.
According to the BBC, only a handful of one-horned rhinos were left in India when the Kaziranga National Park was built a century ago in Assam, India. Today, the number has grown to more than 2,400—that’s more than two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population. These species of rhino can weigh as much as four tons and are the largest rhinoceros species in the world. Poachers frequently target the one-horned rhino because these horns are used for medicine or to be displayed by the wealthy. The horns are usually sold in Vietnam and China, where they are considered miracle cures for cancer and other diseases. Vendors can charge as much as $6,000 for 100 grams of rhino horn.
There is controversy over the way the park is running. The park’s director, Dr. Satyendra Singh claims that the media’s “shoot on sight” label is not correct. He stated, “First we warn them—who are you? But if they resort to firing we have to kill them. First we try to arrest them, so that we get the information, what are the linkages, who are the others in the gang?” A local man living in the area told BBC that the park poachers killed his son, who was in the area searching for the family’s cows. Another young boy lost his ability to walk when the rangers shot him in the leg. The park admitted their mistake and paid for the boy’s medical expenses.
Poaching has dropped in the park since the rule to kill poachers was implemented. From 2013-2014, 54 rhinos were killed due to poaching. That number decreased to 35 in 2015-2016. The park has been a famous tourist attraction, bringing in 170,000 visitors a year. The park was the location for David Attenborough’s film Planet Earth II. William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visited the park in 2016.
According to Sputniknews.com, critics of the park claim that the rule to shoot people is extremely harsh and that it ignored the “rule of law and the rights of the native in favor of protecting a valuable tourist attraction.” However, people in favor of the policy claim that it is necessary to protect the rhino species. The Indian government recently said that it was pleased with the shooting policy and will announce an expansion of it to other national parks with hopes of implementing it nationwide.