Game rangers in Kenya have arrested 12 suspected rhino poachers after a rare 10-year-old female white rhino was shot its horns hacked off for sale overseas as an aphrodisiac.
The men are believed to belong to an illicit game trade syndicate. The rhino was shot on December 28 on a private ranch in central Kenya, when the rangers started a manhunt and arrested the suspects and recovered the female’s horns, according to Times Live.
The suspects have been arraigned before a court in the Kibera district of the capital, Nairobi.Kenya’s wildlife chief Julius Kipng'etich said:
If we lose one rhino, as Kenya, that's a lot.
Kenya suffered a bad year for poaching in 2009, when 12 black rhinos and six white rhinos were killed. The country has the third-highest population of rhinos in the world, with about 600 black and 300 white rhinos.
The illegal trade, which is banned by international treaties as well as local laws, is driven by demand in Asia and the Middle East for use in traditional medicines. Rhino horn is believed to help treat fevers, convulsions and is popular as an aphrodisiac.
The horns contain the same substance as hooves, nails and hair — keratin. Kipng'etich said the widespread myth that rhino horn is an aphrodisiac was nonsense:
It is a myth. People think that it is an aphrodisiac. If you want similar effect you could chew your nails or munch your hair.
White rhinos are not white in colour, nor are black rhinos necessarily darker than white ones. The confusion came from the Dutch word ”wijd” or wide, a reference to the wide, square mouth of the rhino, which is a grazer. The word later found its way into the English language as ”white” and its opposite became ”black.” Black rhinos are browsers.
Within the white rhino family, there are two species, the Southern White Rhino and the Northern White Rhino. The one that was shot was a Southern White Rhino, of which there are more than 17,000 in the wild, according to Wikipedia. 93 percent of these are in South Africa, where they are protected, although incidents of poaching do take place.
Other countries with Southern White Rhino populations are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, with a few believed to survive in Mozambique.
The Northern White Rhino, formerly found in East and Central Africa is extinct in the wild.