Rhino poaching surge

2010-09-06 22:27

Cape Town - The rate at which rhino are being poached in South Africa is heading for a point where the number killed will exceed the number born, The World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) African rhino programme manager Joseph Okori warned on Monday.

Should the current surge in poaching continue, then "in two years we could start to expect a decline" in the population growth rate, he said.

There are about 19 000 white rhino and 1 470 black rhino in reserves and national parks around South Africa.

WWF has marked September 22 as "Rhino Day" in an effort to highlight a dramatic increase in rhino poaching in South Africa since 2008.

The environmental organisation is calling on concerned citizens to "dust off their vuvuzelas... and make as much noise as possible at 13:00, as a symbolic act to send a powerful message to leaders that the time to take serious and effective action against rhino poaching is now".

In a written reply to a parliamentary question on Monday, Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said that 139 rhino - five black and 134 white rhino - had been poached on private land, provincial reserves and in the Kruger National Park between January 1 and July 16 this year.

Responding to a question by Democratic Alliance MP Gareth Morgan, the minister said she had no plans to institute an investigation into the reasons for the escalation in rhino poaching.

Wildlife crime reaction unit

However, current measures were not sufficient to curb poaching, and her department was setting up an interim national wildlife crime reaction unit.

"The unit will be co-ordinated from the department... and will investigate the illegal killing and smuggling of rhino horns," she said.

Okori said the criminal syndicates behind the poaching were well organised.

"They have helicopters and assault rifles, and are able to procure narcotics (to dart the rhinos). They must have very good connections within institutions that possess these drugs to be able to do so.

"There is also the question of how they manage to smuggle the horns out of the country so quickly, given all the border security put in place for the (Soccer) World Cup," he said.

According to the WWF website, the surge in poaching is "fuelled by demand for horn from the Asian market".

275 killed this year

Okori said the rate at which rhino were currently being poached meant about 275 animals would be killed this year.

"If the poaching surge continues, we will hit 1 450, which will be seven percent of the current rhino population in South Africa," he said.

At this point, the rate at which rhino were being killed would exceed the birth rate, Okori said.

More rhino have been killed in the first seven months of this year than were poached in the period 2000 to 2007.

In July, SA National Parks (SANParks) chief executive Dr David Mabunda said the country's rhino were in no danger of extinction because the poaching deaths were a small percentage of the rhino population.

"The rhinos lost through poaching throughout the country constitute approximately 0.6% of the estimated white rhino population... and approximately 0.3% of the... estimated black rhino population," he reportedly said at the time.

  • Hartmann Beukes - 2010-09-07 07:40

    It astounds me how we can allow such a travesty to happen. Why can we not assign some of our sedentary defence force units to a task force created specifically for the protection of these endangered animals? Or are our military services too busy trying to shake off the winter flab?

  • 50 CALIBER - 2010-09-07 08:02

    To all rhino Game Rangers & Farmers.
    Dart the rhinos, Remove their horns and epoxy false TRANSPARENT plastic horns in place.
    Now when you catch the poachers, remove their horns as well. That should get the message across.
    Have the same attitude towards the poachers as what they have towards the Rhinos.

  • Andrew - 2010-09-07 09:40

    This is a complex issue and one that I feel is beyond the understanding of a single person or body. What is required to tackle this issue is a state approved, but not state run, dispensation which empowers the Rhino sensitive community to address the problem.
    There are many levels to this problem only one of which is to eradicate, by whatever means are appropriate (not neccessarily legal or for the faint hearted or soft of stomach)to ensure that zero, I mean zero, persons find it worth the risk of acquiring the horns.
    Yes I may sound barbaric to some, but to you I say, "Is the wanton slaughter of an animal of beauty less barbaric" - I would say not so!!
    Do not let any Government or organisation that has an appetite for corruption have any input into the management of the protection of these animals - That just creates a weakness in the effectiveness - Leave it to passionate, professionals - just make sure that they are empowered

  • N Stobs - 2010-09-07 09:44

    Surely the answer is to persuade the government to bring pressure on the Chinese govt to ban the import and sale of the horns or derivatives. What happened to the arsenic idea? I thought that was great provided the animal wasn't affected. If a few users die of arsenic poisoning that should make the Chinese sit up and take notice.

  • DISGUSTED - 2010-09-07 10:20

    The parks chief statements are chilling, it seems he is not concerned or he benefiting from the poaching.

  • Sick of Rhino Poaching - 2010-09-07 11:52

    Why would she (Environment Minister Buyelwa Sonjica) wants to start an investigation ? How do they get over the borders? It really looks that there are more people involved in these killings than the actual killers themselves!There is already so much blood on our hands..What will be left for our grandchildren, children... THE BIG FOUR??????

  • Badger - 2010-09-07 13:12

    @ 50 Caliber. They removed the horns in East Africa a couple of years ago and the poachers simply shot the animal as not to "waste time" tracking a worthless rhino 'again' !!!

  • Catherine Wright - 2010-09-07 16:00

    Two comments - Obviously bribery and corruption of law enforcement, customs officials. Secondly the people purchasing are the people who can stop this carnage - target them and their government - name, shame, educate, indoctrinate, sanction and expose them for what they are - tell them if they can't get it up rhino horn is not going to help - they are being swindled.

  • Africa is a FAILURE - 2010-09-08 08:50

    It is such a pity that the Govt.does nothing?just talk and more talk and meetings to try look important!action=zero! only way to stop it is shoot on sight and have a dedicated team of professionals,even the army are no good and corrupt as well!! sad to see the decadence of the people here!!

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