South Africa plans to evacuate hundreds of rhinos from the famed Kruger National Park to safe havens out of horn smugglers’ reaches, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa announced on Tuesday.
“A decision has been made on this issue of translocation,” said Molewa, announcing an action plan to curb spiralling illegal hunts for rhino horn.
“Relocations from the Kruger National Park and the creation of rhino strongholds could allow the total rhino population size of South Africa to continue to grow,” she said.
The authorities “could relocate up to 500” rhino, which can weigh a tonne or more, said South African National Parks ecologist Sam Ferreira.
Illegal rhino killings have spiked from 13 in 2007 to 1 004 last year, steadily increasing despite the deployment of soldiers in the vast nature reserve.
The animal’s horn – which is made of a similar material to fingernails – is coveted by the Asian middle classes, who use it as a status symbol.
There are thought to be as few as 8 400 white rhino left in the Kruger Park.
Now, some will be moved out of areas of high poaching activity inside the park – such as the eastern boundary that forms part of South Africa’s border with Mozambique.
The alternative strongholds include other state-owned provincial parks, private parks and communal areas. Neighbouring countries are also being considered as hosts, according to the ministry. – AFP