Dehorned rhino bulls in South Africa. The country is home to about 20,000 wild rhinos, more than 80 percent of the world’s population.  By Kimon de Greef

In the cold hours before dawn this week on a South African game reserve, a dog began barking. It was a special breed of Belgian sheepdog, and its job was to listen for poachers.

The dog’s handler, trained to guard rhinoceroses, could hear a pride of lions in the distance. He decided it was a false alarm. But that Monday evening, rangers came across the remains of men suspected of being poachers.

“One of our guys found what he thought was a soccer ball,” Nick Fox, the owner of the private game reserve in Eastern Cape Province, said on Friday. “It turned out to be a skull.”

The next morning, rangers and police officers said that as many as three men suspected of being rhino poachers had been killed by lions in an area densely packed with thorn bushes.  
The Score:  Lions 3️⃣  Poachers 0️⃣

“There was nothing we could do before that,” Mr. Fox said. “It was getting dark — too unsafe to be on foot.” He added, “Once lions have taken down a human, you cannot be on the ground with them.”  To get to the remains, the rangers had to shoot the lions with darts to knock them out.

The men killed had been carrying a high-caliber rifle and an ax for chopping off the horns of the animals they planned to hunt, Mr. Fox said. They also had food to last several days — “mostly bread,” Mr. Fox said — and wire cutters for getting through fences. His estimate of three victims was based on counting their clothes and shoes.

Rhino horn is worth about $9,000 per pound in Asia, driving a lucrative and illicit trade. It is a prized ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine and is considered a status symbol.

South Africa is home to about 20,000 wild rhinos, more than 80 percent of the world’s population. About one-third of the animals are owned by private breeders. Since 2008, more than 7,000 rhinos have been hunted illegally, with 1,028 killed in 2017, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

Capt. Mali Govender of the Eastern Cape police service confirmed the deaths and said that the remains had been sent for forensic testing. But she said it “was not possible to speculate” how many victims had died.  Good Riddance...

African Wildlife Foundations Mission:

Is to ensure wildlife and wild lands thrive in modern Africa"

African Wildlife Foundation is working with other conservation organizations and governments to spread public awareness about the illegal rhino horn trade, the horrors of poaching, and dwindling rhino populations. For example, we launched a campaign with WildAid in 2012 featuring former NBA star Yao Ming and targeting Chinese audiences to bring attention to the atrocities of rhino poaching and dispel myths about rhino horn. You can also help spread the word.
Give rhinos a sanctuary.
AWF constructed Nguila Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Although fencing in wildlife is a last resort, AWF supported the sanctuary’s establishment due to the rhinos’ critical status. We provided funding to the sanctuary, ensured park staff had necessary equipment (vehicles, radio sets, etc.), and created housing for rangers and staff. Most recently, AWF provided the sanctuary with camera traps, which once caught potential poachers on camera, to monitor rhinos. At Nguila, rhinos have a protected, fenced-in space to live in. 
Recruit wildlife scouts
AWF recruits, trains, and equips wildlife scouts who protect the rhino from poachers. Wildlife scouts are familiar with landscapes, wildlife, and community members. As insiders, they are able to quickly identify any suspicious activity. They monitor rhinos—and other wildlife—and work with local authorities, like Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), to help them apprehend poachers and even identify would-be poachers.
Work with the legal system
In 2012, AWF hosted a Rhino Summit—an emergency response to the rhino-poaching crisis—to create a comprehensive plan to protect rhinos. The plan called for increasing surveillance on the ground, strengthening law enforcement, curbing demand and trade, and reaching out to influence policy makers and legal entities. Later the same year, we, along with KWS, hosted an Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Luncheon that brought together the top legal minds to discuss harsher penalties for wildlife-related crimes. 

Equipping wildlife rangers, deploying sniffer dogs, and training law enforcement officers to stop wildlife crime
Providing wildlife rangers with anti-poaching equipment and training prevents the killing of wildlife in protected areas, but to disrupt illegal wildlife trade we deploy trained Canine Detection Units along trafficking channels to intercept wildlife contraband. Located at major seaports and airports in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique, the robust sniffer dog and handler teams stop illegal wildlife products such as ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales — as well as the smugglers and poachers behind the killing. With additional training in the enforcement of wildlife laws, national agencies ensure these criminals are prosecuted without slipping through legal loopholes.

Enabling conservation-friendly community empowerment
We understand specific community needs and work closely with members to make sure they get direct benefits from conserving wildlife and protecting natural habitat. While our education outreach programs help locals to reduce human-wildlife conflict, we also implement projects that create a positive impact for the entire community. AWF has helped communities lease their land to develop conservancies or wildlife management areas. We also help farming communities explore sustainable agriculture, growing their income and reducing pressure on living and natural resources.

Building conservation partnerships and spreading awareness across the continent — and the world
Not only do we nurture relationships with rural community leaders, we also represent Africa’s wildlife and wild lands as the continent strives to meet sustainable development goals. We are working closely with the African Union to ensure that conservation is central to progress over the next few decades. Outside the continent, we have launched successful public awareness campaigns in China and Vietnam informing consumers about the brutal truths behind the global wildlife trade. We also advocate for governments and protection agencies to ban international trade in wildlife parts like ivory and introduce stiffer penalties for criminals.

Applying research to our conservation strategies
We match our decades worth of experience on the ground with pioneering scientific research to add a new dimension to our work across the continent. GPS collars on priority populations of elephants help us identify which land must be conserved while radio collars on lions allow us to track population trends, seasonal movement patterns, and mortality. Incisive geographical information systems and mapping informs our conservation strategies so even remote landscapes are protected.