An unsettling photograph of a young white rhinoceros, drugged and blindfolded, has won global recognition for South African photographer, Neil Aldrige.
His photograph, “Waiting for freedom” captures the moments prior to the release of the rhino into the wild of the Okavango Delta, Botswana, after its relocation from South Africa where it was in danger of being killed by poachers. It won the environment category in the 2018 World Press Photo competition.
South Africa is a war zone for rhinos. Poaching of the animals escalated from 13 rhinos in 2007 to reach a peak of 1 215 in 2014. Although the numbers of rhinos killed in South Africa have declined slightly since then, the killing goes on and the losses are unsustainable. Botswana is saving rhinos from poaching hotspots in South Africa and re-establishing populations in its own wildlife sanctuaries.
Rhino poaching is driven by demand for rhino horn, primarily from Vietnam and other parts of Asia where it is used as a traditional medicine.