National Geographic : 2012 Mar
EDITOR'S NOTE PHOTO: PETER BEARD, ART + COMMERCE A black rhino flees ropers in eastern Kenya in 1968. Its capture was part of a relocation effort. Unless poaching is stopped, their future looks bleak. Horns of a Dilemma It would have been difficult to convince the black rhino being pursued by our helicopter that the plight of rhinos in South Africa had taken a turn for the better. Clearly annoyed by our aircraft, she was blasting through the bushveld at a remarkable pace, her calf right behind. Suddenly, the massive rhino spun around and faced us head-on. She looked up and shook her head, her horns swinging in an arc. Enough was enough. It was time to stand her ground and call our bluff. I marveled at her defiance. That was in 1995, when rhinos---especially white rhinos---in southern Africa were rebounding to such a degree that our helicopter flight was part of a population survey for an upcoming Natal Parks Board game auction. The animals were to be auctioned off to parks, reserves, and hunting lodges. The work of dedicated conservationists and private game farmers had paid off, but that was then. Today things are not as promising. This month Peter Gwin and photographer Brent Stirton take us to the front lines of the recent poaching crisis in "Rhino Wars." Peter writes that the optimism of the 1990s has suffered a reverse. In 2008, 83 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone. In 2011 the figure was more than 400. Unless poaching is stopped, their future looks bleak. Rhinos may not be as attractive and charismatic as tigers or elephants---the species we see in typical conservation campaigns---but the mother I saw 17 years ago was indisputably wild and beautiful in her defiance.