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A Record 1,004 Rhinos Were Killed in South Africa in 2013

(photos andy towle)


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The rhinoceros has become the cause du jour in South Africa, its image emblazoned on everything from wine bottles to shopping bags to rhino-shaped candles and rhino hoof-shaped gummy sweets.

Cars have kitschy plastic rhino horns strapped to the front and “Save the Rhino” bumper stickers plastered on the back. You can even buy bracelets adorned with tiny silver rhinos. They’re all part of the ever-expanding fundraising effort to help protect these iconic animals from ruthless poachers who kill them and hack off their horns.

But South Africa is losing its battle to save the rhino.

Hunted to near extinction in the 19th century before being rescued by conservationists in South Africa in the 1950s, the world’s biggest rhino population is once again under threat. Despite a myriad of efforts to raise money and awareness, the poaching wave that began in 2008 is only getting worse, year after year.

Government officials announced Friday that a record 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013 — a significant jump from 668 the year before.

Experts say that with international organized crime syndicates behind the poaching, the problem is much bigger than South Africa, and that not enough is being done outside this country’s borders to stop it.

3_rhinoMike Knight, who chairs the Rhino Management Group for southern Africa, said the poaching can’t be stopped without addressing the source of the problem: demand from countries like Vietnam and China. There, rhino horn is a pricey “medicine” ground up and ingested in the false belief it can cure everything from cancer to a hangover. Recently, rhino horn has also become a trendy party drug for the rich, despite its lack of any measurable effects.

Knight said there needs to be more intelligence-sharing between countries to counter poaching syndicates. The gangs behind the trade in rhino horn, he added, are also involved in trafficking guns, drugs and people.

“We’re trying to do as much as we possibly can here to slow down the rate of increase in poaching. But we can only do so much,” Knight said.

“The rhino crisis is not an African issue, it’s an international issue. If we do not have the full cooperation of regional and international partners, we are basically fighting a losing battle.”

Already in 2014, 43 rhinos have been killed by poachers, nearly all of them inside Kruger National Park, a popular safari destination for tourists. Of the 1,004 rhinos killed last year, 606 were in the park, a protected area.

Mozambique, which borders the Kruger reserve, has emerged as a transit point for rhino horns being smuggled out of Africa, and as a base for poachers crossing into the park.

South Africa's national parks authority said that more than 80 percent of incursions by poachers come from the Mozambican side of the park. Up to 15 heavily armed groups of poachers operate in the Kruger reserve at any time; they're especially active during full moons, when it is easier to see targets at night.

This has turned the Kruger park into a battlefield. Already this year, 11 suspected poachers have been killed in shootouts with park rangers and soldiers stationed at Kruger to protect the rhinos, officials revealed on Tuesday.

Tom Milliken, rhino expert for TRAFFIC, an organization that monitors trade in wildlife, said that both South Africa and Mozambique need to “decisively up their game” if they hope to stop the killing of rhinos.

“Rhino horn trafficking and consumption are not simply environmental issues, they represent threats to the very fabric of society,” he said in a statement.

Julian Rademeyer, author of the book “Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade,” said the poaching crisis is likely to get worse this year due in part to South Africa’s inability to tackle organized crime groups.

“If the trend is anything to go by in recent years, we’re going to see a lot more than 1,000 rhinos killed,” he said. “We don’t have a handle on organized crime in this country.”

Rademeyer said there is also a lack of urgency on the issue internationally, with plenty of meetings and conferences held to discuss the problem but not much action.

“The crisis is at the point where we have just about run out of time,” he said.

Then he amended his statement: “We already have run out of time.”

Man Who Bid $350,000 to Kill African Rhino Now Feels Hunted


Last week we reported that the Dallas Safari Club had auctioned the right to kill an endangered African Black Rhino to an anonymous bidder for $350,0000.

The bidder was later identified, through Facebook, as Corey Knowlton.

Knowlton defends his decision and says he feels attacked and threatened for what he is doing, and has received death threats, he told WFAA:

“I’m a hunter,” Knowlton told WFAA. “I want to experience a black rhino. I want to be intimately involved with a black rhino. If I go over there and shoot it or not shoot it, it’s beyond the point.”

Watch him talk to Piers Morgan, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Man Who Bid $350,000 to Kill African Rhino Now Feels Hunted" »

Two Orcas Captured by Hunters for Display in Sochi During Olympics

The UK Mirror reports that two orcas have been captured to be put on display at a Sochi aquarium during the Olympics:

SeaworldThe mammals , which can grow up to 22ft long and swim 100 miles a day, are set to be kept in a “small concrete tank” after a 4,614-mile flight from the far east of Russia.

Animal protection advisers said the move to exhibit the orcas – not really whales but members of the dolphin family – was cruel and a “callous attempt to cash in on the Olympics”.

Campaigners say the two killer whales, along with six others, are being held “in small pools” near Vladivostok.

The reports appear to be backed up by a late November post on the Facebook group Russian Orcas, which wrote:

We have new information that two of the killer whales being held near Vladivostok are soon to be flown across Russia to the Sochi Dolphinarium. Sochi is a busy place these days preparing for the winter Olympics, 7-23 Feb. 2014. The whale captors are intending to make money during the Olympics by putting the orcas on display. These will be the first orcas ever displayed in public in Russia. A sad day for Russia, a sad thing for the Olympics, a very sad situation for 2 orcas who now will be flying across 7 time zones, some 7,427 kilometres (4,614 miles) to spend the rest of what remains of their lives in captivity.

The news comes as the plight of the animals at venues like Sea World is being highlighted in the documentary Blackfish.

Bidder Pays $350,000 to Kill Endangered Black Rhino


A permit to hunt an endangered African black rhino (4,000 remain in the wild, approximately) sold for $350,000 at a controversial auction last night, the Guardian reports:

RhinoSteve Wagner, a spokesman for the Dallas Safari Club, which sponsored the closed-door event Saturday night, confirmed the sale of the permit for a hunt in the African nation of Namibia. He declined to name the buyer.

The Safari Club's executive director, Ben Carter, has defended the auction, saying all money raised will go toward protecting the species. He also said the rhino that the winner will be allowed to hunt is old, male and nonbreeding and that the animal was likely to be targeted for removal anyway because it was becoming aggressive and threatening other wildlife.

But the auction drew howls from critics, including wildlife and animal rights groups, and the FBI said it was investigating death threats against members of the club.

Watch the Dallas Safari club executive director Ben Carter try to defend the auction on CNN, AFTER THE JUMP...

"They're detrimental to the population when they get old like that. They're like a cranky old man."

Continue reading "Bidder Pays $350,000 to Kill Endangered Black Rhino" »

This is What 'Blissed Out' Dolphins Look Like When They're High on Recreational Drugs: VIDEO


"This is the first time that apparent recreational drug use has been documented in dolphins."

In this case, the recreational drug is a neurotoxin released by a puffer fish which the dolphins pass around and "puff" on before allowing the fish to swim free.

Watch a fascinating clip from the two-part BBC documentary "Spy in the Pod",


Continue reading "This is What 'Blissed Out' Dolphins Look Like When They're High on Recreational Drugs: VIDEO" »

Watch Episode 5 Of 'Whatever This Is.' From The Creator Of 'The Outs': VIDEO


"Nature," the fifth episode of "Whatever this is." gets down and dirty and finds our protagonists dealing with some of their more primal urges and instincts. Largely departing from the familiar terrain of New York City, this newest episode takes its inspiration from the momentary respite the characters find from their busy, tangled lives. 

The latest installment of Adam Goldman's brainchild finds Sam, Ari, and videographer Dana becoming one with the earth as they shoot a sort-of documentary about a tree-hugging yogi. Even more intriguing is Toby's replacement on the film crew by a handsome new guy, Sam and Dana finding their inner "Om," and Ari getting back to nature with a little marijuana. To top it off, Lisa is back in the city performing a new service for her lesbian employers, Alex and Chris.

Check out this fabulous and honest series' newest episode, AFTER THE JUMP...

And in case you've fallen behind, catch up with Episode One, Two, Three, and Four.

Continue reading "Watch Episode 5 Of 'Whatever This Is.' From The Creator Of 'The Outs': VIDEO" »


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