First two months sees 146 rhino killed

In the first two months of this year 146 rhino have been killed, with 95 dying in the Kruger National Park – traditionally the hardest hit area in the country. This is thanks to its open border with Mozambique. Poachers have killed all the rhino on that side, and are safe from South African forces when they cross the border. 

These figures mean more than two rhino are killed each day. Last year 1 004 were killed by poachers, who sell its horn to markets in Asia. In South Africa, a kilogram of the horn can reach anywhere up to R600 000 on the black market, driven by the belief that it can cure cancer. The value has also made it a sign of wealth, with people consuming crushed horn to show how much money they have.

In 2012 a total of 668 rhino were killed, with the acceleration of poaching leading to fears that the species could be wiped out within the next decade. At the moment, populations are still growing, but deaths could soon exceed births. South Africa has around 80% of the world's rhino population, and has the last big population in Africa.

This has seen South Africa mobilise and fight a small-scale war in the Kruger Park, with drones and soldiers being deployed to fight poachers. Funds have been short and parks have had to take resources from normal conservation, with treasury giving an extra R75-million to the effort. This has been boosted by a R232-million grant given to the Peace Parks Foundation by the Dutch and Swedish post code lotteries. The funds will mainly go to the Kruger Park, to be used for equipment and rewards for people who stop poachers.

Diifferent approaches
The unabated poaching has led to several different approaches being adopted. Fourteen black rhino are being moved from the North West to parks in Botswana. Another plan has been proposed to move dozens of rhino to Australia, which is considered much safer than anywhere else in Africa.

South Africa is also planning on asking that a once-off sale of its stockpile of horn be sanctioned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This could raise R8-billion for anti-poaching activities, and the department of environmental affairs hopes this would flood the market. The move has been heavily criticised, but the department will make the proposal at the body's next meeting in 2016.

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Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

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