Between 2006 and 2017, some 8,500 rhinos were killed by poachers worldwide, but the actual tally is certainly even higher as many kills go undetected. More than 80 percent of these crimes were committed in South Africa. This current wave of rhino killings and horn smuggling focuses on South Africa’s Kruger National Park where the great majority of Africa’s rhinos live. It serves a seemingly insatiable consumer demand in Asia, particularly in Vietnam and China.
Such has been the sustained assault on Kruger’s White Rhinos—the single largest population in the world—that their numbers are now in alarming decline. In 2010 Kruger’s White Rhino population was about 10,600 but by the end of 2017 it had dropped by almost half. The park’s Black Rhinos—far fewer in number—fared better during the onslaught, and even grew modestly.
Poaching is big business. The poaching and smuggling crime syndicates are complex and extremely versatile, their networks and methods constantly morphing to avoid detection and to exploit new opportunities. Tracking the journey of a horn across many countries from the poaching hotspots, via transit points, to the main end markets is difficult and vexing.