Kruger Park rhinos to be moved to strongholds, other countries

2014-08-12 17:29

Rhino along the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park are to be moved to so-called strongholds both inside and outside the flagship reserve to protect them from poachers.

“South Africa is considering a range of rhino strongholds, inclusive of national parks, provincial reserves, communal areas and private reserves,” Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said today.

Molewa said her department was also looking at moving some rhino out of the country.

“Part of the translocation will include the Southern African Development Community... We have already started discussions with Botswana, we are working with Zambia, we are working with other countries, but more intensely those two in particular,” she said.

Within the park, authorities would establish “intensive protection zones” aimed at reducing the threat to rhino.

“Here, several technologically advanced methods are being explored to help anti-poaching teams to intensively reinforce the protection of rhino,” Molewa said.

South African National Parks’ large mammal ecologist Sam Ferreira said up to 500 rhino could be removed.

“If you want to give rhino a chance, you remove them from places where they have a high probability of being killed. The kind of numbers are based on sound ecological models ... you can remove rhino up to roughly about 500,” he said.

Molewa said that between January and August 6 this year, 631 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa, 408 of them in the Kruger.

The most recent rhino population survey, conducted last year, showed there were currently between 8 400 and 9 600 white rhino in the park.

“Poaching, natural deaths and the translocation of rhino from the Kruger National Park currently match that of rhino births,” she said.

Ferreira said the rhino birth rate in the park was about 8%, the natural death rate about 2% and the poaching rate about 6%.

He said it was important to note that in 1960 there had been no rhino in the Kruger National Park until 350 were introduced from KwaZulu-Natal. This population had grown to between 8 700 and 12 200 by 2010.

He said it should also be noted that the total rhino population in South Africa continued to grow.

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega said that South African Police Service units were pursuing rhino poachers from the Kruger into Mozambique.

“Yes, we have a hot pursuit agreement, meaning that when ... somebody crosses the border, we do have an agreement with Mozambique to follow through,” she said.

“[Hot pursuits] are happening... They happen all the time,” Phiyega said, declining to give details of how many such operations had taken place.

Last year, 1 004 rhino were killed by poachers in South Africa, 606 of them in the Kruger.

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