South Africa’s rhino death toll has climbed to a staggering 82 rhinos killed during the first 37 days of 2013.
A South Africa National Parks (SANParks) media release states that 61 of the rhinos were massacred in Kruger National Park. KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces lost eight, six, four, and three rhinos. 21 people have been arrested this year in South Africa for rhino crimes.
Rhino horn trade speculators are part of the problem, according to an economic study published in the Spring 2012 issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy. The authors write that “current ex situ stockpiles are sufficiently large that profit-maximizing individuals may have an incentive to subsidize the slaughter of rhinos until the wild stock collapses”.
As species become rarer, supplies from the wilds will dwindle and prices go up, which can invite additional pressure on extant populations. In other words, extinction may be an incentive-driven process, via the price mechanism. These forces are exacerbated when a significant market player holds significant stockpiles of wildlife commodities.
Legalizing rhino horn trade for one species, the authors argue, could create opportunities for laundering horns from other rhino species, noting that the extinction strategy is “particularly worrisome in cases where the extinct species is similar to surviving species”.