Horns of Africa

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Editor's note: some of these images contain graphic content.

Across southern Africa, a war is raging over an increasingly precious commodity: rhinoceros horn. A single kilogram of the horn can fetch up to $100,000 on the global black market, a price largely driven by a belief in some parts of Asia that the appendage is imbued with mystical healing properties. The growing demand for rhino horn has fueled a massive rhino slaughter: Poachers, some of them armed with automatic weapons and bullet-proof vests, killed 1,000 animals last year. Meanwhile, conservationists and wildlife officials have taken up arms to stop the bloodshed, patrolling game reserves under cover of darkness. Writing for Foreign Policy, journalist Scott Johnson chronicled the tremendous efforts to save South Africa's rhinos in his dispatch, "Where the Wild Things Are." Conservation efforts have tried a variety of solutions to save the dwindling rhino population, from contaminating rino horns with herbicide to diminish their value, to relocating entire populations, to a controversial proposal to legalize and regulate the trade in horns. All these developments represent a shifting and high-stakes battle over one of the world's increasingly rare and sought after commodities.

Above, a rhino at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in Pilanesberg, South Africa, on Oct. 23, 2013. Rhinos were tagged and DNA collected during the park's anti-rhino poaching initiative.

Daniel Born/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers, vets, and Lewa staff try to move a wild male black rhino named Songato at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, on Aug. 26, 2013. 11 of Lewa's total 73 endangered black rhinos were moved to neighboring Borana Conservancy -- formerly lacking a rhino population -- to provide them with more space. A tracking device is fitted to the horn of each rhino to monitor its movements and to help combat poaching.

Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

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The carcass of Longhorn, a 24-year-old rhino cow, at the Finfoot Lake Reserve, in South Africa's North West province, on Nov. 24, 2012. Longhorn was slaughtered by poachers, despite the earlier removal of its horn by anti-poaching authorities. The cavity in the body is the result of a postmortem examination in search of ballistic evidence.

Daniel Born/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images


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Rhinos at the Finfoot Lake Reserve, in South Africa's North West province, on Nov. 24, 2012. Rhinos on the reserve have been targeted by poachers.

Daniel Born/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images


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Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers, veterinarians, and Lewa staff try to move a tranquilized wild male black rhino named Sero into a crate at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, on Aug. 26, 2013, during the relocation of 11 endangered black rhinos to neighboring Borana Conservancy.

Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images


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A male rhino translocated from the Czech Republic at Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, in Mkomazi, Tanzania, on June 19, 2012. Wildlife advocacy groups staged a rare translocation of captive-born black rhinos to Mkomazi to rejuvenate the rhino population in the area.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images


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Rangers get ready to start their early evening patrol in Kenya's Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where they hope to combat nighttime poaching, on Dec. 9, 2010. Lewa, which spans over 62,000 acres, is home to more than 10 percent of Kenya's black rhino population and over 14 percent of Kenya's white rhino population.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

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Two male Rhinoceros pasture in the savanah at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy which spans 62,000 acres on Dec. 10, 2010.

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

A Belgian Shepherd named Russel and his handler in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, in South Africa's North West province, on July 22, 2012. Russel underwent nine months of training as part of a rhino conservation program and is used to track and apprehend rhino poachers in the reserve.

Liza van Devente/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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A group of rhinos in Waterberg, South Africa, on May 8, 2012. Volunteers from Pretoria, Hartebeespoortdam, and Polokwane travelled to Waterberg to assist with anti-poaching efforts.

Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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Rangers scan the horizon as they sit in a rocky outcrop on a hill at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, on Dec. 9, 2010. Conservancy officials say that poaching activity is fueled by a high demand for rhino horns in Asia.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images


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A four-month-old white rhinoceres rests at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in Hoedspruit, South Africa. Gertjie, known as Little G, was orphaned when poachers killed his mother. 

James Oatway/The Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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A park ranger walks in the bush during a night patrol at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya, on Dec. 9, 2010.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

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