Poachers are no longer just targeting rhinos and elephants in the wild. Now, some have turned on their sights on sanctuaries, zoos and even museum collections.
Several brutal attacks that took place in South Africa and Europe in recent months could be signaling a trend toward a more violent brand of extreme poaching, sparking fear among those who seek to protect endangered animals.
In February of 2017, a gang of poachers broke into a rhino orphanage in South Africa and beat the staff before killing two rhino calves and removing their horns, reports Mirror Online. A few weeks earlier, poachers shot a beloved white rhino in a Paris zoo, before cutting of its horns with a chainsaw.
Rhino horns are more valuable than gold, selling for up to $65,000 per kilogram on the black market, according to Mirror Online. The demand is highest in Vietnam and other Asian countries, where rhino horn is believed to have medicinal properties and signify wealth.
However, criminals have usually targeted wild animals in the past.
But as rangers become better at protecting rhinos and elephants, poachers are turning easier targets — zoos and sanctuaries aren’t always heavily guarded.
To make matters worse, the thieves are using deadlier weapons, like machine guns and incorporating more sophisticated technology, like drones and helicopters to track the animals. They’ve even bribed vets to secure powerful drugs that knock out the animals while they cut off their horns and tusks.
Now zoos and other similar facilities are on high alert, as it becomes clear that the poachers will stop at nothing to get their loot. Some have even taken to removing the horns of their own rhinos to prevent poaching!
We love rhinos. Check out this video and you will too: