Eight critically endangered black rhinos die after drinking saltier water than they were used to when they were moved to a new reserve in Kenya

  • Tragic loss of endangered black rhinos thought to be caused by salt poisoning
  • Operation aimed to boost species population, but eight of 14 died in transit
  • Translocation of endangered animals is risky and involves putting them to sleep
  • Conservationists in Kenya demand responsibility be taken after sad news broke
  • Death toll is ‘unprecedented’ in more than a decade of such animal transfers

Eight out of 14 critically endangered black rhinos died after being moved to a new reserve in southern Kenya, wildlife officials admitted on Friday.

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said salt poisoning may have caused the rhinos to perish as they struggled to adapt to saltier water in their new home.

It has suspended the ongoing move of other rhinos with the surviving ones being closely monitored.

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

Eight critically endangered rhinos died of suspected salt poisoning while being moved from Nairobi and Lake Nakuru in Kenya

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The black rhinos were being translocated to Tsavo East National Park in the hope of boosting species population

The relocation of endangered animals involves putting them to sleep for the journey and then reviving them in a process which carries risks.

But the loss of more than half of them is highly unusual.

Prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu said officials must take responsibility and should have explained what went wrong sooner.

‘Rhinos have died, we have to say it openly when it happens, not a week later or a month later,’ she said.

‘Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.’

It was hoped moving rhinos to the newly created Tsavo East National Park from Nairobi would boost the population there, AP reported.

The wildlife ministry said ‘disciplinary action will definitely be taken’ if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff.

14 black rhinos were moved in all.

The death toll while moving from the capital to a national park hundreds of kilometres away has been labelled ‘unprecedented’ by the government.

‘Moving rhinos is complicated, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals,’ Kahumbu added.

‘Rhino translocations also have major welfare considerations and I dread to think of the suffering that these poor animals endured before they died.’

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

In transit from two separate locations, eight out of 14 of the endangered black rhinos died while moving to Tsavo East National Park

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

There are an estimated 5,500 black rhinos in the world, a figure that has rebounded from just 350 that existed when the species was on the brink of extinction in 1983

In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa nearly half a century after it was wiped out there.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said.

Save the Rhinos estimates there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa.

Kenya’s black rhino population stands at 750, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

According to KWS figures, nine rhinos were killed in Kenya last year.

In May, three more were shot dead inside a specially-protected sanctuary in northern Kenya and their horns removed, while in March the last male northern white rhino on earth, an elderly bull named Sudan, was put down by Kenyan vets after falling ill.

The black was on the brink of extinction after a dramatic 98 percent decline in population from 20,000 in 1970 to about 350 in 1983, says WWF.

The decline was caused by escalating illegal poaching for illegal markets in the Middle East and Asia.

Black rhinos are considered critically endangered but its population has rebounded, although the species remains threatened due to poaching and habitat loss.

Ranger trying to save rhinos shot, killed by poachers

https://www.sfgate.com/world/article/Poachers-kill-ranger-rhinos-Kruger-South-Africa-13092039.php

Published FILE - A South African ranger searches from a helicopter for a poacher on the run in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo: James Oatway/Sunday Times/Getty Images / 2014 Gallo Images (PTY) LTD

A game ranger was killed in a shootout Thursday with rhino poachers he had been trailing, South African National Parks officials said.

The 34-year-old ranger was a member of a unit that had been tracking a gang of poachers with dogs in the Kruger National Park, according to multiple reports. When the rangers confronted the gang, the poachers opened fire.

In the exchange of gunfire, the ranger was shot in the upper body while still in his vehicle.

RELATED: Rhino poachers eaten alive by lions

First aid was administered and a doctor flown in, but although he was stabilized at the the scene, the ranger died en route to a hospital, Kruger National Park spokesperson Ike Phaahla told News24.

The poachers got away, but  they apparently were unable to kill any animals as there were no carcasses in the vicinity, the South African reported.

A police investigation is underway.

New Study Reveals There Maybe Twice as Many Gorillas Than Previously Thought A new study in the journal ‘Science Advances’ says there may be almost 361,900 in western Africa, up from earlier estimates of 150,000-250,000. According to The Guardian, despite the results from the decade-long survey, gorillas remain a critically endangered species. The population of gorillas across Africa have declined as a result of disease, deforestation and poaching. Gorillas reach maturity after 11 or 12 years and only give birth every four years, meaning it will take time for the population to rebuild. Prof. Fiona Maisels, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, to The Guardian

Media: Wibbitz

The ranger’s identity was withheld pending notification of kin.

MORE: Only the poacher’s head was left

“We have lost a patriot who died on duty protecting South African assets and who was well trained to defend himself, hence our shock on learning of this incident,” parks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said. “We will draw strength from his contribution to the anti-poaching campaign and as his colleagues, we are going to continue where he left off in honor of his memory.”

Endangered black rhinos die in Kenya reserve

A male black rhinoceros in a crate about to be transferred at Nairobi National Park, 26 June 2018Image copyrightAFP
Image captionEstimates suggest there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world

Eight endangered black rhinos have died while being transported to a new wildlife reserve in Kenya.

They died after drinking water with high concentrations of salt, the Kenyan government says.

The animals were among 14 black rhinos being transported from Nairobi National Park to the country’s biggest national park, Tsavo East.

Estimates suggest there are fewer than 5,500 black rhinos in the world, all of them in Africa and some 750 in Kenya.

Kenya Wildlife Service vets believe the more the animals drank, the thirstier they became, which quickly lead to salt poisoning, although an independent investigation has been launched to confirm the cause of death.

Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu told AFP news agency: “Something must have gone wrong, and we want to know what it is.”

The relocation of endangered animals involves sedating them for the journey and reviving them on arrival. The process is known as translocation.

The WWF conservation agency, which runs the programme with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), described the process as “extremely challenging” in a statement released to Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.

“Black rhinos are under enormous threat, so efforts to try and better protect them, such as translocation, are crucial for future generations,” i said.

Rhinos are often moved when their populations outgrow their surroundings. In the case of critically endangered black rhinos, the moves can establish new breeding habitats to boost numbers.

Nine rhinos were killed in Kenya last year, according to KWS, and in March, the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino died after months of poor health.

How would a species’ extinction impact the food web, our ecosystems?

https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/how-would-a-species-extinction-impact-the-food-web-our-ecosystems/70004743

Every living thing plays a role in the food chain and Earth’s ecosystems, and the extinction of certain species, whether predators or prey, can leave behind significant impacts.

“Since the origin of life on Earth, it’s fair to say that more species have gone extinct than are currently alive now,” said Dr. Anthony Giordano, president and chief conservation officer of the Society for the Preservation of Endangered Carnivores and their International Ecological Study (SPECIES). “Extinction itself is part of the normal course of evolution.”

The effect a species would have if it were to fade from existence depends largely on its role in the ecosystem. Predators, for example, are often the first to be threatened by hunting or competition with people and resources, said Clemson University conservation biologist Dr. Robert Baldwin.

Rhinos - Pexels image

“Think about large animals like the grizzly bear,” Baldwin said. “When a predator goes extinct, all of its prey are released from that predation pressure, and they may have big impacts on ecosystems.”

The loss of a predator can result in what is called a trophic cascade, which is an ecological phenomenon triggered by a predator’s extinction that can also impact populations of prey, which can cause dramatic ecosystem and food web changes.

“If there are too many deer, for example, they can really change the ecosystem because they can destroy forests, and they also carry disease,” Baldwin said.

Scientists have noted the tropic cascade effect in parts of Africa where lion and leopard populations have dwindled, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It caused olive baboons to alter their behavior patterns and increase contact with nearby humans. The increased contact has led to a rise in intestinal parasites in both people and the baboons.

In the case of the northern white rhino, of which only two female rhinos now survive, the last male of the species was held in semi-captivity at the end of its life, and “the damage was already done in the ecosystem by that point,” Baldwin said.

However, in general, the loss of rhinos, which often face threats from humans, from the ecosystem can have wide-ranging effects, according to Baldwin, who noted that the rhino’s eating pattern helps with seed dispersal.

“They eat grasses and vegetation in one place, and they move and defecate in another place,” he said. “That helps those plants to disperse throughout the ecosystem, and it also helps populate the ecosystem with rhino food.”

The loss of abundant organisms that provide food for a wide variety of species would also interrupt the food web, according to Baldwin.

“For instance, if krill in the ocean goes extinct or becomes depressed in numbers, then that’s the bottom-up effect; predators that rely on krill will suffer,” he said.

While not at the top of the food chain, sea otters are keystone predators in the kelp forests in which they reside.

“The presence of sea otters in marine near-shore communities and coastal communities, particularly on the West Coast, have been shown to be essential and critical to healthy kelp forests underwater,” Giordano said.

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These kelp forests provide habitat for many species. “One of the ways sea otters help to maintain those kelp forests is by preying upon other species that would slowly start to eat or consume the kelp, which, if they were left unchecked, would then rattle the entire kelp bed and turn it into a rocky or barren wasteland,” Giordano said.

Species like parrot fish, which graze on algae, are extremely important to coral reef ecosystems because they prevent algae growth from getting out of control and impacting those coral reefs, according to Giordano.

“As algae expands in those communities, it can lead to the expansion of coral dead zones,” he added.

The loss of certain species can impact the ecosystem in a number of ways, Giordano said, but the issue is that researchers don’t yet know about many of the species out there.

A 2011 study concluded that about 86 percent of the Earth’s species have yet to be discovered, according to National Geographic.

“We know more about some of the larger ones, but for many species, especially the ones that are disappearing, we don’t know the impact of their loss,” he said.

This is the World’s Last Male Northern White Rhino — And He’s Sick

https://www.livescience.com/61900-last-male-northern-white-rhino-is-sick.html

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This is the World's Last Male Northern White Rhino — And He's Sick
Sudan, the last Northern White Rhino

Credit: Glyn Edmunds/REX/Shutterstock

The last male northern white rhinoceros is sick.

Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino and the last male of his subspecies (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), is ailing in the wake of two infections on his back right leg, according to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the wildlife sanctuary in Kenya where the last three northern white rhinoceroses on the planet live.

“At the advanced age of 45, his health has begun deteriorating, and his future is not looking bright,” Sudan’s caregivers posted on Ol Pejeta’s Facebook pageRhinos usually live between about 30 and 40 years, according to a follow-up comment by the caregivers, and Sudan’s problems are age-related. [In Photos: The Last 5 Northern White Rhinos]

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https://www.facebook.com/OlPejetaConservancy/posts/10160033482610324&width=500Sudan’s problems started with an infection on his back right leg near the end of 2017, according to Ol Pejeta. His veterinary team treated him, and he was back to normal in January. But since mid-February, vets have discovered that there is a deeper infection underlying the original one, and Sudan is not responding as quickly to treatment this time.

“We are very concerned about him — he’s extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily,” Ol Pejeta caretakers wrote on Facebook.

Even before this health setback, the chances of Sudan fathering new northern white rhinoceroses in his lifetime were basically nil. This subspecies of rhinoceros used to roam across Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to Ol Pejeta, but poaching and chaos from years of civil war in the region sent the population plummeting. The last time a northern white rhinoceros was seen outside of captivity was 2007, and the subspecies is presumed extinct in the wild.

Since then, the population of captive white rhinos has been falling one by one, largely due to old age. In 2014, after the deaths of a male named Suni at Ol Pejeta and a male named Angalifu at the San Diego Zoo, Sudan became the sole surviving northern white rhino male.

Sudan is one of only three northern white rhinoceroses left in the world, period. A female, Nola, died of old age and infection at the San Diego Zoo in November 2015, leaving only Sudan and two females, named Fatu and Najin, at Ol Pejeta. Najin is Sudan’s daughter, and Fatu is his granddaughter; both have conditions that make carrying a pregnancy impossible. What’s more, in 2015, Sudan’s sperm count was discovered to be very low, making him unlikely to father offspring naturally.

Conservationists are using artificial measures in attempts to save the species. For example, they’re using sperm and eggs extracted from northern white rhinoceroses, including Sudan and recently deceased individuals, to try to develop rhinoceros in vitro fertilization (IVF). This strategy depends on managing to fertilize a northern white rhinoceros egg in a lab and successfully implant it in a surrogate mother from the southern white rhinoceros subspecies (Ceratotherium simum simum), which was once at the edge of extinction but made a comeback thanks to intensive conservation efforts.

Big-game documentary Trophy hunts for answers but comes back empty-handed

Photo: The Orchard

Which sounds more painful to watch, for those sensitive to animal suffering: a deer being shot for sport, or a rhinoceros being forcibly held down and having its horn sawed off? Trophy, a documentary about the uneasy, seemingly oxymoronic junction of big-game hunting and conservation efforts, kicks off by showing both of these events, and speedily reveals that neither situation is as clear-cut as it might initially seem. The group of folks who mutilate the rhino do so in an effort to save its life—the amputation is painless (no different, really, than clipping one’s fingernail; both are made of keratin), and the animal, until its horn grows back, is theoretically of no value to the poachers who would otherwise kill it. Such measures are financed, in large part, by hunters like Philip Glass (not the minimalist composer), who pay enormous sums in order to travel to Africa and bag “the big five”: elephant, lion, leopard, cape buffalo, and rhino. Is it acceptable to let rich people kill a few animals for “fun” if their cash might potentially save many others?

Trophy ostensibly maintains a neutral point of view, allowing people on both sides of various issues to make their best case. Some of their arguments will fall on deaf ears. John Hume, the man leading the team that de-horns rhinos, argues strenuously throughout the film that bans on the sale of ivory should be lifted, because they ultimately hurt rhinos more than they help them; he spends a lot of time being yelled at by angry protestors. Glass, meanwhile, justifies his love of hunting by quoting scripture (specifically a passage in Genesis about God giving human beings dominion over the animals) and brags that no bureaucrat can take his pleasure in a kill away from him. (He also insists that only a fool would believe in evolution, just to burn one last bridge with a certain cross-section of viewers.) Various other interview subjects come and go, without any individual ever really attaining a position of authority. This approach is at once admirable and frustrating, acknowledging complexity to a degree that amounts to a big shrug.

Indeed, Trophy’s tendency to wander is its greatest liability. There’s some digressive outrage directed at what are called “canned hunts,” in which the animal to be shot has essentially been pre-captured and remains confined in a small area, with no real chance of escape. There are legitimate reasons to decry this practice (though the notion that it’s “not sporting” seems a tad silly—the human having a rifle that can kill at a great distance isn’t exactly sporting either), but the issue is tangential at best to Trophy’s larger concerns, and feels like a cul-de-sac from which the film emerges with great clumsiness. It’s also slightly unfortunate—though admittedly no fault of director Shaul Schwarz (assisted by Christina Clusiau)—that Trophy covers a lot of the same ground as did recent Netflix documentary The Ivory Game. This film is more rhinocentric, with elephants and their tusks addressed fleetingly by comparison, but the battle against poachers and the free market is similar enough to make one doc fairly redundant if you’ve seen the other. What’s abundantly clear is that every other species on Earth is at our mercy, and that there are no easy answers when it comes to determining the most compassionate form of our so-called dominion.

https://www.avclub.com/big-game-documentary-trophy-hunts-for-answers-but-comes-1800010236

 Ivory investigator killed in Kenya


One of the world’s leading investigators into the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn has been killed in Kenya.

Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.

The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.

The US citizen had recently returned from a research trip to Myanmar.

Bradley Martin was in the process of writing up his findings when he died, reports the BBC’s Alastair Leithead from Nairobi.

His wife found him in their house in Langata. Police are investigating the circumstances but suspect it was a botched robbery.

Our correspondent says Bradley Martin had spent decades risking his life to secretly photograph and document the illegal sales of ivory and rhino horn, travelling to China, Vietnam, and Laos to pose as a buyer – helping to find out the level of black market prices.

He first went to Kenya from the US in the 1970s when there was a surge in the number of elephants being killed for their ivory.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Conservationists believe that the ivory trade is largely responsible for the world’s declining elephant numbers

His work on illegal wildlife markets helped pressure China to ban the rhino horn trade in the 1990s, and domestic sales of ivory, which came into force this year.

Fellow conservationists have been paying tribute to him on social media.
Skip Twitter post by @paulakahumbu

2/3 Esmond was at the forefront of exposing the scale of ivory markets in USA, Congo, Nigeria, Angola, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and recently Myanmar. He always collaborated with Save the Elephants and worked with many of us generously sharing his findings & views.
— Dr. Paula Kahumbu (@paulakahumbu) February 5, 2018

Always sharply dressed with a colourful handkerchief falling from his top pocket, Esmond Bradley Martin would immediately cut to the chase, honing in on the latest issue that was consuming him.

He was a well-known and highly respected character in the conservation community – passionate and unwavering in his efforts to crack down on illegal wildlife crime.

In a major report last year from Laos, he and his colleague Lucy Vigne established that the country had the world’s fastest growing ivory trade.

They risked their own safety staying at a Chinese casino inhabited by gangsters and traffickers in order to visit the illegal markets and find out the latest prices by posing as dealers.

His life’s work was combating the illegal trade of wildlife and he produced a huge body of highly respected research and investigative reports.

He will be a huge loss to the international conservation community.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42943503

Boycott the film “Trophy”

Resharing our message below regarding the film Trophy, which we urge you not to watch.

Image may contain: 4 people, text
CompassionWorks International

Tomorrow, CNN broadcasts the film “Trophy”, a pro-trophy hunting film.

The film was initially presented to CWI as a balanced look at trophy hunting. For that reason, we gave an interview for the film. Executive Director Carrie LeBlanc appears in Trophy, as one of only two primary dissenting voices against trophy hunting.

When we saw the completed film last fall, we were horrified. As it turns out, the films director manipulated and used an anti-trophy hunting protest we held in Las Vegas to their own ends and put a trophy hunter amongst our protesters to provoke response.

Trophy attempts, poorly, to make trophy hunters seem like sympathetic figures, instead of the killers they are.

While we are unhappy to be featured in a pro-trophy hunting film, we are glad to be a voice for the animals.

We encourage you to contact CNN and express your disgust that they would show a pro-trophy hunting film.

We also encourage you, particularly if you are a sensitive viewer, to opt NOT to watch Trophy. There are numerous instances of the brutal killing of animals, including an elephant, by trophy hunters.

Thank you for speaking out against evil trophy hunting. notyourtrophy.org

In Africa, Geneticists Are Hunting Poachers

Workers at Kruger National Park in South Africa moving a rhino from a high-risk poaching area in 2014. Researchers in South Africa are turning to genetic fingerprinting to track down poachers for prosecution. CreditStefan Heunis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

South African authorities long had eyes on Rogers Mukwena. They knew the former schoolteacher was wanted in Zimbabwe for poaching rhinoceroses and selling their horns, which can command hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He’d jumped bail and fled to northern Pretoria, but it was vexingly difficult to catch and prosecute him — until a scientist helped make the case against him with rhino DNA.

His subsequent conviction resulted from a new tactic in wildlife preservation: The genetic fingerprinting methods that have been so successful in the criminal justice system are now being used to solve poaching crimes.

First, researchers in South Africa had to build a large database of genetic samples drawn from African rhinoceroses. The DNA would be used to match a carcass to a particular horn discovered on a suspected poacher or trafficker, or to rhinoceros blood on his clothes, knives or axes.

To make that possible, Dr. Cindy Harper, a veterinarian at the University of Pretoria, and her colleagues collected DNA from every rhinoceros they could find — more than 20,000 so far. They have taught park rangers how to retrieve blood, tissue or hair samples from every rhinoceros that is killed, dehorned or moved.

C

The rangers have learned forensic crime-scene principles and the importance of the so-called chain of custody to ensure that the samples are not corrupted. Dr. Harper’s lab performs the analysis and stores DNA fingerprints.

The scientists’ database, which they call Rhodis, is modeled after Codis, the F.B.I. system used to link the DNA of suspects to evidence at a crime scene.

The approach is promising, said Crawford Allan, senior director of Traffic, which monitors illegal wildlife trade at the World Wildlife Fund.

A poaching scene is a crime scene, he said: “If you want to get through detection and investigation and prosecution, treat it as a crime scene and use forensics.”

Poaching has escalated exponentially in the past decade, he noted. More than 7,000 rhinos have been killed in the past ten years. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 20,00 to 30,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks.

Their tusks and horns are trafficked through experienced criminal networks. “You really need sophisticated tools to help solve these crimes,” Mr. Allan said.

Photo

A pile of poached ivory is prepared for burning in Libreville, Gabon. CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

The rhino project provides “a ‘cold hit’ database,” said Stephen J. O’Brien, referring to the identification of a perpetrator by DNA when there are no other apparent clues.

Dr. O’Brien, an expert on DNA fingerprinting and chief scientific officer of the Theodosius Dobzhansky Center for Genome Bioinformatics at St. Petersburg State University in Russia, is co-author of a new paper, published on Monday in Current Biology, describing the anti-poaching effort.

A similar attempt to use DNA to convict poachers is led by Sam Wasser, director of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington. His group’s focus is African elephants.

Over a period of 15 years, he and his colleagues have collected and analyzed DNA from dung to create a map of the ranges of various elephant groups based on their genetic differences. It helps show where ivory seized from poachers originated.

The project has not linked specific carcasses to specific tusks recovered from traffickers. But the analysis has provided valuable clues about the regions in which poachers are operating.

“To our surprise, the ivory was consistently coming from two areas,” Dr. Wasser said. Tusks from savanna elephants were initially coming from southeastern Tanzania and northern Mozambique, the data showed, but the illegal trade then shifted northward to southern Kenya.

Tusks from forest elephants originated in a small triangular area in northeast Gabon, northwest Republic of the Congo, and southeastern Cameroon.

“Instead of focusing everywhere, if we really want the big criminals we should focus on those two spots,” Dr. Wasser said.

The sale of ivory and rhino horns is hugely lucrative. Rhino horns may bring $60,000 or more per kilogram. A horn generally weighs a few kilograms, but a few have been as heavy as 10 kilograms, or about 22 pounds.

“Pound for pound, a rhino horn is worth more than heroin or gold or platinum,” Mr. Allan said. And prosecutions are so rare that the risks for the traffickers are “very low.”

The poacher sells horns to a trafficker, who disguises them and ships them to destination countries, mainly Vietnam and China. Some horns are carved into jewelry while still in South Africa, which can make it extremely difficult to trace them.

Most horns are ground and used as medicine in Asia, believed to cure cancer, impotence — or, Mr. Allan said, “you name it.” More recently, people in Asia have begun wearing beads or bangles made from rhino horns thought to have curative powers and to be status symbols. Some horns are made into ceremonial cups.

Photo

A forensic investigator using a metal detector to find bullets in a rhino carcass in Kruger National Park in South Africa. CreditMarco Longari/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Elephant tusks currently sell for $1,000 a kilogram, Dr. Wasser said. Unlike rhino horns, which are shipped in relatively small volumes, traffickers typically collect and ship at least half a ton of ivory, or 500 kilograms, in a container.

Some seizures have uncovered as much as seven tons of ivory in a single shipment, Dr. Wasser said. Ivory is primarily bought by collectors or as an investment.

Dr. Wasser’s primary target is traffickers, not poachers. Even when poachers are caught and convicted, he said, “there are 10 more waiting in line to replace them.”

But traffickers form the basis of the business that makes poaching profitable. “The analogy is, are you after a serial killer or a one-time murderer?” he asked.

To catch a serial killer, Dr. Wasser added, authorities require “intelligence-based forensics to prevent future crimes.”

Dr. Harper also hopes to disrupt the criminal networks shipping contraband — in this case, rhino horns — to destination countries. So far, the rhino database has been used to convict hunters and traffickers in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Swaziland.

But the group has not disrupted the criminal conglomerates at the top of the chain, she said.

The rhinoceros project began in 2010, when poaching was skyrocketing. Thirteen were poached in South Africa in 2007; more than 1,000 are now killed each year.

In 120 criminal cases completed or still pending, Rhodis has linked DNA on horns, equipment or clothing to particular carcasses, Dr. Harper said. But it can take years for a case to move through the courts and end in a conviction.

The first successful such conviction involved a Vietnamese smuggler who was caught with seven horns at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in 2010. Two were matched to carcasses, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But the case involving Mr. Mukwena was one of the first to involve a well-known smuggler. He was arrested on Jan. 16, 2012, after a police officer spotted him walking across a field carrying a black bag.

When the officer confronted him, Mr. Mukwena dropped the bag and ran. It contained three rhinoceros horns, two from a cow and one from her calf.

Apprehended, Mr. Mukwena admitted to killing the cow but said an accomplice had killed the calf because it was bothering him.

Correction: January 8, 2018 
An earlier version of this article misidentified the organization that hosts Traffic, the group monitoring illegal wildlife trade. It is the World Wildlife Fund, not the World Wildlife Federation.

TSUNAMIS COULD WIPE OUT THE REMAINING 62 JAVAN RHINOS

Javan rhinos used to roam widely throughout southeastern Asia, but poaching and habitat loss has reduced their numbers and range immensely. Today, they are only found in Ujung Kulon National Park, on the Indonesian island of Java. New research suggests they may be even more vulnerable to extinction than thought.

In the largest survey to date, researchers placed motion-activated cameras at nearly 200 locations throughout the park. After analyzing the large amount of video collected, they determined that only 62 Javan rhinos remain in the wild. These few live in low-lying areas that could be inundated by a tsunami, researchers write in a study describing their findings, published in the journal Conservation Letters .

By virtue of their location, such an event is likely in the not-too-distant future; The rhinos happen to live in a tectonically and volcanically active neighborhood. Just to the south of Java, the Australian plate slides beneath the southeastern corner of the Eurasian plate, creating a deep trough called the Javan (or Sunda) trench. This area is prone to earthquakes, like the one that created the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Researchers calculate that if the same size wave hit western Java, which could’ve happened if the tsunami occurred slightly to the southeast, it would “have put most, if not all, rhinos at risk from drowning,” write the authors.

And a tsunami of this size—reaching a maximum “run-up” of 48 meters (155 feet) above sea level—would not be necessary to cause serious damage. The researchers conclude that a tsunami that made it to 10 meters, or 33 feet, above sea level would threaten 80 percent of the rhinos’ territory. Such a tsunami will probably occur in the next 100 years, says corresponding author Brian Gerber, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University.

The park also happens to sit about 50 miles from one of the world’s most fearsome volcanoes: Anak Krakatoa. It is the “offspring” of the Krakatoa volcano which erupted in 1883, the most cataclysmic in modern history, the reverberations of which were felt around the world. Anak Kratoa, which means “childs of Krakatoa,” has been growing from the destroyed remnants of this volcanic island ever since. If it erupts before 2040 scientists estimate it could create tsunamis that reach up to nearly 70 feet above sea level. If it erupts after then, the waves could rise to heights of almost 100 feet.

For this reason, a second population of Javan rhinos needs to be established to increase the likelihood of their survival, Gerber says. It also underscores the importance of protecting the animals from being poached for their horns, which are incorrectly thought to have medicinal value. The rhino horn trade is responsible for the depletion of rhinos around the world, including the mainland subspecies of the Javan rhino, the last of which was poached in Vietnam in 2009.

The “study provides good momentum for our efforts to save the Javan rhino, considering that we are racing against time,” says Arnold Sitompul, conservation director of World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia, who wasn’t involved in the paper, in a statement. “We need the social and political will to move things forward and establish additional populations.”