JOHANNESBURG — Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu called Thursday for an end to rhino poaching in South Africa, where 210 of the animals have been killed this year as demand for their horns has soared.
“The butchering of rhinoceroses in South Africa must be stopped,” the former archbishop of Cape Town said in a statement.
“It is robbing our people of their precious natural heritage, robbing our nation of its ecological diversity, and severely embarrassing our nation abroad.”
South Africa has lost 210 rhinos to poaching since January, compared to 122 for all of last year, according to the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Black-market demand for rhino horns has risen sharply as economic growth has spread through east and southeast Asia, where the horn is believed to have medicinal properties.
The surge in demand, combined with endemic poverty in many rhino habitats, has helped to push rhino poaching to the highest levels in 15 years, according to wildlife monitoring group Traffic.
Rhino horns can fetch from 1,800 to 2,500 dollars (1,350 to 1,900 euros) on the Asian market, according to police. One horn weighs between eight and 11 kilogrammes (18 and 24 pounds).
“For as long as many of our people remain locked in poverty it is easy to overlook such issues as the killing of our wildlife heritage,” Tutu said.
But, he added, “I would like to appeal to South Africans not to take the easy route on this issue. Let us stop the callous brutality, the greed and the criminality that is robbing our children of their birthright.”