Nairobi, Dec 10 – Poachers killed two southern male white rhinos in a wildlife sanctuary in northern Kenya last week, the conservancy said.

The privately-owned Lewa Wildlife Conservancy reported that the poachers, who entered the sanctuary on December 6, managed to cut the horns off the rhino carcasses and escape with them.

“After six years of successfully keeping all rhinos on the conservancy safe and recording high birth rates, the entire Lewa team is devastated by this recent loss,” said Tuqa Jirmo, Lewa’s chief operations officer in a statement. “Since the incident, we have been working tirelessly with the Kenya Police and Kenya Wildlife Service to follow up on the incident and apprehend the criminals,” he added.

Kenya is home to just over 760 black rhinos and about 620 southern white rhinos.
As rhinos become rarer, the value of their horn only increases, encouraging international criminal syndicates to engage in the illegal wildlife trade. The threat of extinction is very real; one subspecies – the western black rhino – was officially declared extinct in 2010, with the primary cause identified as poaching, and the northern white rhino is on the brink.

The reason for the high value is the unrelenting demand, mostly in Asia and specifically in China for the horn. This demand is based primarily, if not exclusively, on a deep-rooted belief of some mystical medical powers inherent in rhino horn.