Operation Rhino Drop: Saving rhinos from slaughter

JOHANNESBURG -- Poachers in South Africa are killing rhinos for their horns -- a record 1,020 have died this year alone and there are only about 30,000 left in the world.

"There is a rhino war," wildlife filmmaker Dereck Joubert told me. "There's a wildlife war. This is the battle for Africa."

It's a war being won by the poachers, according to Joubert and his wife Beverly who are dedicated to helping save the rhinos.

"We've reached a tipping point now in South Africa, where rhinos are being poached faster than they can breed," he said. "And that's a very, very dangerous milestone."

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Dereck Joubert and Beverly Joubert
CBS News

More than 30 years ago the Jouberts abandoned city life and took to the African bush -- creating groundbreaking films for National Geographic.

Now they say they're witnessing the decimation of a species. Every seven hours a rhino is killed in Africa; its horn sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars as a powerful aphrodisiac.

"We've seen the most horrific images of how they hack off a rhino horn when the poor rhino is still alive, and it's just left there to die," Beverly said.

Chief Ranger Steve Dell has seen the slaughter firsthand. I asked him what it's like to witness such an act.

"It's heartbreaking," Dell said with tears in his eyes. "I'm on the edge of despair."

The Jouberts say it's time for dramatic action. They plan to airlift 100 rhinos from South Africa to secret locations in Botswana, far from the poachers reach. It's worked before. The 5,000 pound five animals are darted, captured, and loaded onto cargo planes ten at a time.

"Moving 100 rhinos out of the highest poaching area in the world to lowest poaching area in the world seems to make sense to us," Dereck said.

It's an expensive project: $4.5 million dollars all paid through donations.

"The more we allow species to disappear, the more we're moving ourselves further and further to extinction," said Beverly.

"And we're not just going to let that happen. We are going to do whatever we can right up until the last minute," Dereck added.

It's a last ditch effort to preserve these prehistoric creatures -- in the hope they survive for generations to come.

You can find out more about the efforts to save the rhinos by visiting:
www.rhinoswithoutborders.com
www.greatplainsfoundation.com
www.andbeyond.com
www.morokolo.com