'More willing poachers than rhino'

2013-06-13 10:00
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Cape Town – Rhino poaching is close to resulting in more deaths than calves being born, Braam Malherbe, extreme conservationist and 50/50 television presenter, said.

"In 2008 an average of 19 to 20 rhino were poached annually. In 2009 122 rhino were poached, in 2010 the figure increased to 333, in 2011 448 rhino were poached and in 2012 668 rhino were poached," Malherbe told News24.

"From 2010 to 2012 the figures doubled. This year as at the end of May more than 350 rhino were killed. Out of the 350 rhino killed nationally 242 were killed in the Kruger Park. And of the 668 and 448 rhino killed nationally, between 2011 and 2012, an average of 72% of the rhino killed were in the KNP."

According to him the KNP accounts approximately for 48% of the national total rhino population. He said most of the poaching is also taking place in the eastern boundary between Mozambique which is about 400km long and is largely unprotected.

"There are more willing poachers than there are rhino. The elements driving the rhino killings are highly organised crime syndicates who will stop at nothing to fuel the trade."

The number of people arrested countrywide on rhino poaching-related charges was currently at 121. Fifty-six of them were arrested in the KNP.

He said rangers must be rewarded and deserve to be acknowledged for arresting poachers.

"I feel strongly that our rangers, who risk death in a confrontation with armed poachers, should be financially incentivised. A field ranger is not highly paid. To expect him to risk his life to save a rhino when he has a family to feed is a big ask. Most are dedicated but some are open to temptation to collude with the enemy. Simple GPS co-ordinates from a cellphone, giving the location of a rhino to a poacher, may secure a significant sum of money for a struggling family."

Rhino horn trade

Michael Eustace, an environmental economist and asset manager, said the ban in trade in rhino horn has been a dismal failure, pushing the trade underground where it has thrived.

"Southern Africa could supply the market with 676 horns a year from natural deaths alone. There are also legal stockpiles of over 5 000 horns. Southern Africa could easily supply the market with 940 horns a year and increase this by 40 horns a year from natural deaths, provided poaching was controlled.

"In addition, private farmers in South Africa could provide the equivalent of 1 000 horns or 4 000kg a year by cropping their horns. The horn re-grows at the rate of 0,8kg a year. In theory, Southern Africa could provide the market with 1 940 horns a year, or more than twice the current demand."

Malherbe said not enough people have successfully been prosecuted for poaching as "the process from the crime scene to an arrest to an actual conviction takes way too long".

He said the parks do get tip-offs from the public about suspected poaching activities but more people need to do so. The National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit number people can call if they know of any poaching activities is 0800 205 005.

"There is no such thing as a single solution to end rhino poaching, we will have to gather an arsenal of tools to form a successful strategy. We need a fundamental paradigm shift in our current failed rhino conservation strategy and a far more collaborative approach in seeking solutions.

"We must make informed decisions, remove sentiment and take decisive action in helping win the rhino wars," Malherbe said.

 
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