Poaching, by definition, is the illegal killing and capturing of animals, typically involving land use rights.
In Africa it involves heavily armed individuals, often operating as a part of international organized crime syndicates. They cross borders into protected reserves and parks with impunity presenting a threat not only to the animals, but to the civilians and lightly armed rangers. This leads to security threats and havoc to villages. It also poses a threat eco-tourism, the lead economic driver for many African countries.
Poachers have one goal in mind and will destroy anything and anyone that presents an obstacle. It is also known that they have worked with local economies and political elites, and are most successful where governance is weak. They subvert their systems and operate with relative impunity. The crime takes place on many different levels, ultimately controlled by sophisticated organized criminal syndicates. They employ the impoverished locals to perform the killing as they are paid sums that can equal up to one year's salary as a Ranger, or up to 15 years salary as an unskilled laborer. These locals are often not well-trained and may cut off the horns of Rhinos and tusks of Elephants with an axe even while the animal is still alive. The horns are then bagged and trafficked across borders ultimately making it to the black market in Asia. This is a multi-million dollar crime enterprise adding to the illegal wildlife trade's estimated value of $7 Billion - $23 Billion USD per year, making it one of the most lucrative illegal businesses. (1)
The demand for Rhino horn and Elephant Ivory far exceeds the supply and the demand is only increasing. Rhino horn is sought after in Asia as a luxury good and is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The increase in demand is linked to economic development and an increase in disposable income in Asia.
Poachers have claimed over 10,000 Africa Rhinos over the past decade, and since 2013, the the population of Rhinos in Africa has declined by 60%. (2) Although the number of Rhinos poached each year in Africa are on the decline since the peak in 2015, it is estimated today that a Rhino is killed for its horn every 22 hours, making it even more difficult for the populations to recover from the peak years of poaching (3). The near-threatened Southern White Rhino has an estimated population of 19,600 - 21,000 today, while tragically the Northern White Rhino only has 2 left. They are females and even with modern technologies, they are both unable to carry a baby. The Northern White Rhino had a population of 500 in the 1970s and the last observation of these animals in the wild was early 2006. As a result of ongoing poaching, the Northern White Rhino are extinct in the wild.
It is haunting to know that there is so much widespread destruction to God's creation caused by human conflict provoked by greed and naivety. Humans have the capacity to inflict such harm on the natural world, but we also have the capacity and responsibility to be caretakers of the natural world. If we did nothing, more great species will be criminally slaughtered into extinction.
Image 1: https://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/rhinoceros
Image 2 (Chart): https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino-info/poaching-stats/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwlemWBhDUARIsAFp1rLWorGsnpgscCLaSKQqYhAw9xnybsyRsIg_fIqsC0IIaogAqAMKIPCUaAkkNEALw_wcB