WWF welcomes rhino evacuation

2014-08-13 08:06

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Johannesburg - WWF South Africa on Tuesday welcomed the announcement that rhino along the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park would be moved to so-called strongholds to protect them from poachers.

The WWF said that translocation was a proven rhino conservation technique as long as there was good security in place.

"The key to the success of a translocation strategy is good biological management as well providing security and monitoring tools in the areas where the animals are moved to", WWF SA's rhino programme manager Jo Shaw said in a statement.

"However, there remains a need to burst the bubble of conspicuous consumption of rhino horn in Asia and halt this unsustainable explosion in demand."

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Tuesday rhino would be moved to 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", she told reporters in Pretoria and Cape Town.

Responding to a question, Molewa said her department was also looking at moving some rhino out of the country.

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.

Population

SA 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.

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

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

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

WWF SA said translocation formed part of good biological management of rhinos and was also a conservation tool.

Bilateral work with affected countries was needed to curb poaching, it said.

The poaching situation internationally is showing no signs of abating and there is no denying that this represents a serious threat to the future of the rhino population in South Africa, Kenya, India and southeast Asia, it said.

"We should be under no illusion that despite our utmost efforts under the currently overwhelming illegal demand for rhino horn, the best we can do is to play for a draw in Africa", said WWF SA CEO Morne du Plessis.

"Ultimately, the battle for the future of African rhinos can only be won in Asia."

Speaking at the briefing, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega revealed that SA Police Service units were pursuing rhino poachers from the Kruger into Mozambique.

She said these units included the police special task force, as well as its air wing, dog unit, and forensic unit.

The briefing was called to inform the media on government's latest plans to protect the country's rhino from poaching.

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

Read more on:    wwf  |  edna molewa  |  johannesburg  |  conservation  |  rhino poaching

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