The poaching became a serious epidemic in the nineties.
"Everyone warned us the rhino killings would start," Barkas said. "But we didn't act until it was almost too late. It's the demand from Vietnam and China. You used to be able to legally kill the rhinos for trophies with a license. So the rhinos were killed, and just their horns were glued to a piece of wood and sent out of the country to the East as ‘trophies.' So the demand for the horn started up again."
"This is not a Rhino War," Barkas says, "it's a rhino genocide. We can't play by their rules – they have none. We have to only work certain hours, our staff needs time off. The poachers don't take time off. They will kill them any time of the day or night. The poachers are winning the physical and economic battle."
As I drove around with Barkas and his team, I saw a lot of wildlife... but no rhinos. The only rhinos I did see were at a roadside eatery set on 10 acres, which had three for viewing. And although their horns had been lopped off, they were still behind electric fences, monitored by cameras, wearing radio collars and watched over by several armed guards.
"Even those three rhino are under threat, because look - they still have some horn left," said our driver Theo. "Someone will probably get them this year. It's inevitable."
By Barkas's estimation, the rhino in South Africa will be gone within the next two years unless something drastic is done. Now.
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