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Helicopter poachers have struck again in KwaZulu-Natal, slashing the horns off a heavily drugged white rhino with a chainsaw and then leaving the animal to die.
But miraculously, the rhino survived, despite horrific injuries to its skull and nasal cavity.
It appears that the poachers may also have captured the cow's month-old calf and taken it away in a helicopter.
A wildlife investigator said the wounds to the cow were comparable to slashing the nose off a person.
The poachers appeared to have removed both horns with a single swipe of a chainsaw. Instead of cutting away the horns at the base, the blade had cut deeply into the animal's skull.
Although rhino horn has no medicinal effects on humans, superstitions about rhino horn persist in southeast and east Asia, where rhino horn is unfortunately believed to be a "remedy" for various ailments, such as fever and pain. The cultural myths surrounding rhino horn are why rhinos are slaughtered illegally - and why wild rhino populations in Africa and Asia are at risk of extinction.
With an overall population of only about 3600 animals spread throughout all of Africa, the black rhinoceros is far from safe from extinction. Between 2000 and 2005 the trade in illegal rhino horn increased significantly. Long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for treating high fevers, rhinoceros horn has also been carved into ornamental cups, bowls, and daggers. In the meantime, efforts to destroy stockpiles of rhinoceros horn have been defeated. Destruction of the stockpiles would make sales of poached rhino horn much more difficult since there would be no ‘legal’ stock with which to mix the poached specimens.