Dr Player pleads for rhino

2012-02-23 00:00

SOUTH Africa may already have reached the point of no return as far as the survival of the white rhino is concerned after the massive impact of poaching on these animals over the past four years, world-renowned conservationist Dr Ian Player warned yesterday.

“The red flags are flying. Anything can happen,” he said at a function where conservation organisation Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife recommended the effectiveness of helicopters in the war against rhino poachers over the past five months at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

The small three-seater Sikorsky 300 made available by Durban’s King Shaka Aviation CEO Vincent Christoforous has already been dubbed the “isagila” (knobkerrie) by local people.

The helicopter had helped Ezemvelo’s anti-poaching teams locate at least 28 vehicles illegally trespassing on the game park, and has helped game wardens catch 10 armed men, it said.

During this period poachers killed only one rhino in the Imfolozi game reserve, compared to nine in the corresponding period last year.

Game ranger Lawrence Munroe said the helicopter’s contribution has led poachers to concentrate their efforts in private game reserves just north of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi recently.

Six rhinos have been killed in private reserves since the beginning of the year, compared to four in Ezemvelo reserves.

King Shaka Aviation spent R500 000 on the chopper experiment in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, but sponsorship of R4 million to R5 million is needed to deploy four or five helicopters throughout the province over the next two years in order to do battle with the poachers.

Player said the survival of humans and the survival of these remarkable surviving dinosaurs on the planet are inextricably interwoven.

“When I turned 70 I told my wife I can go to my grave with my heart at peace, knowing that the future of the white rhino is safe … “ he said, despite compromised eyesight because of chemicals he used to tranquilise rhinos in the 1960s and a battered back from the animals coming to.

“And then the tidal wave of poaching hit us in 2008,” he said.

“… the survival of these special animals was worth every second of pain. What will we tell our grandchildren if we don’t take active steps now to save these animals?”

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