This human cost should not be forgotten. Rather it should be central to any anti-poaching policy. If we do not change the conversation, this evil trade will only continue unabated. With any luck, an acknowledgement of the economic and security implications of this poaching crisis may help formulate a more nuanced response that will save Africa's great wildlife before it is too late.
As an African, when I witness the devastating effect poaching of these iconic animals has it makes me incredibly sad. Clearly the loss of a beautiful creature is terrible, but the amount of tourists that these animals bring into countries like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania means that the impact goes way beyond the wildlife, and actually devastates communities.
Africa's wildlife is what sets the continent apart from the rest of the world. It is their best resource. With many areas tormented by political dispute, poverty and an on-going battle with the demon that is HIV, it seems that the people of Africa need to realise the significance of what remains. So why is it then that they can so easily be seen as passive in its destruction?
Sadly, there are millions of humans who want to see rhinos dead. Most of them are in the Far East. Humans who think the horn of the white or black rhino can be ground down and ingested to improve their sex lives, cure cancer or ward off evil spirits. Humans who are prepared to pay heavily-armed poachers to shoot and maim these animals, hack off their horn and ship it half way around the world to China. It's the new drug trade in Africa, a multi-million dollar industry that commands $65,000 a kilo for rhino horn. An average rhino horn is about 5kg. It's not hard to do the maths.
I am shocked, but not surprised, to find ourselves in the middle of another poaching crisis, one that is having massive impact throughout the African continent. A small trinket or a large extravagant ornament made of ivory will have had a bloody start as most ivory these days is illegal; hacked from the face of a dead or dying elephant.