Warning of rhino catastrophe

2013-07-24 22:36
Game wardens at Mahikeng game reserve struggle to move a 3-ton rhino after it was darted and then marked in order to prevent poaching. (Susan Cilliers, Beeld)

Game wardens at Mahikeng game reserve struggle to move a 3-ton rhino after it was darted and then marked in order to prevent poaching. (Susan Cilliers, Beeld)

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Johannesburg - South Africa's rhino population will rapidly decline in the next three years if it is not protected and poaching is not eradicated, according to a report released on Wednesday.

At current poaching levels, rhino numbers would decline significantly by 2016, and possibly earlier in the Kruger National Park, said SA National Parks former CEO Mavuso Msimang, who headed the research.

At least 515 rhino had been killed in the country so far this year. A total of 668 rhino were killed in the country last year.

Msimang said although live birth rates exceeded death rates, more stringent measures should be implemented to protect them.

"Above all, we need first-rate intelligence. We need to be able to know what is happening."

The report, titled Rhino Issue Management Process, recommended greater political will from authorities, a central funding mechanism to fight poaching, harsher sentences to deter criminals, and evaluating the rhino horn trade with other countries, especially in Asia, where the horn was in demand.

Commercial trade in rhino horn was also recommended to curb poaching.

Msimang said: "In the absence of any initiatives whatsoever, demand will increase and possibly push the price to US100 000 [about R969 000] /kg."

He said corruption played a major role in making South Africa and other African countries a conducive environment for criminals.

Environmental affairs department deputy director general Fundisile Mketeni said the report was submitted to Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa in January.

"The report has greatly assisted the department in reviewing and updating its rhino response strategy. The recommendations were submitted to Cabinet in February and later to MECs responsible for environmental affairs."

Mketeni said the recommendation to allow commercial trade in rhino horn would form part of a rhino trade proposal to be submitted at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora in 2016.

The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of poaching, with 321 rhino killed there since January.

Read more on:    knp  |  sanparks  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching
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