Harare – Seven of Zimbabwe’s critically endangered black rhinoceros population have been killed by poachers in the past fortnight as demand for its horn has soared, wildlife conservation officials said Tuesday.
Zimbabwe’s black rhino population has declined from 7,000 in the 1980s to less than 200 today, according to the private Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force that helps raise funds for rhino preservation.
Vitalis Chadenga, director of the state Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, was quoted in the daily Herald newspaper as saying five of the rhino were shot in the Matopos national park in the south-west and two were killed in a private game sanctuary in the Chiredzi district in the south-east of Zimbabwe.
The official said poachers were adopting more sophisticated killing techniques, operating with high powered rifles fitted with silencers and night sights to poach animals in the dark.
Rhino horn is made up of keratin, the main component of human hair and toenails, but anti-smuggling agencies say in the Far East it is invested with mythical powers as an aphrodisiac and, more recently, as a cancer cure.