Low risk and higher profits had led to an increased hunt of elephants and rhinoceros for their horns, according to a new report of the World Wildlife Fund.
The report “Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking; A consultation with governments” said that 2011 was the highest year on record for elephant poaching. The illegal poaching of rhinos in South Africa surged to a record high in 2011, the report said.
It also mentioned that theft of rhinoceros horns from museums, auction houses and antique shops has also increased in the European Union. The report pointed out that ivory estimated to weigh more than 23 tonnes (from about 2,500 elephants) was confiscated in seizures of illegal ivory in 2011.
The report also mentions that hundreds of elephants were slaughtered in a single incident in Bouba N’Djida National Park, Cameroon, in 2012 by poaching gangs on horseback armed with military-issue machine guns. The report finds that all these incidents showed that elephant poaching increased in Africa and are closely correlated with increases in consumer purchasing power in China, the main demand country for ivory.
Rhino horns are much in demand as a palliative medicine for cancer, along with its use as a “hangover cure” by affluent people in some countries.
The report said that the trade has become a lucrative business for criminal syndicates and risk involved was low compared to drug trafficking. The report mentions that the price of rhino horn has increased to around 60,000 dollars per kg (twice the value of gold and platinum). These are also now more valuable on the black market than diamonds and cocaine.