Rhino poaching out of control

2010-07-05 00:00

RHINO poaching continues to escalate at an unprecedented and unacceptable rate in South Africa. A further 32 rhinos were slain recently, bringing the tally countrywide this year to 124.

However, there is no imminent danger of the species becoming extinct, South African National Parks (SanParks) said in a statement yesterday.

SanParks have lost 55 rhinos, the provinces 38 and the private sector 31 rhinos.

Of these, five were black rhino and 119 white rhino.

Meanwhile a female rhino is still alive after suffering horrific injuries inflicted by poachers.

They had darted her from the air and sliced off her horn with a chainsaw before leaving her and her tiny calf to their fate at Tugela private game reserve near Ladysmith last week.

However, the month-old calf was found dead of starvation nearby.

The managing director of the reserve, Johan Geldenhuys, said yesterday that despite having survived between three and five days in the veld, as well as a second round of sedation during her rescue, the rhino mother’s chances of recovery are still about “fifty-fifty”.

”We are keeping a close eye on her for any secondary infection,” he said.

The poachers had cut into the rhino’s skull and nasal cavity and left her to die. The wounded animal was spotted by a professional hunter earlier this week and details of the crime were pieced together.

So far no one has been arrested.

SanParks chief executive Dr David Mabunda said in a statement yesterday that the escalating level of rhino poaching is both distressing and unacceptable.

But, he added, the figure is still below one percent of the existing populations of black and white rhino, and well below the annual growth rates of the species. There is therefore no danger of imminent extinction of these populations.

“The rhinos lost through poaching throughout the country constitute approximately 0,6% of the estimated white rhino population of 19 409 and approximately 0,3% of the 1 752 estimated black rhino population.”

The growth rates of white and black rhino are set at between six percent and 11,5% and three percent and 6,5% respectively.

Mabunda said joint operations involving police, SanParks and provincial environmental crime prevention teams have resulted in 42 arrests, 22 of them in the Kruger National Park, this year.

On Tuesday, a Vietnamese, Xuan Hoang (29), was sentenced to 10 years’ jail for possession of seven rhino horns he was trying to smuggle through O.R. Tambo International.

Mabunda urged citizens to report any suspicious activity to the police, and especially to be on the lookout for low-flying Robinson R44 helicopters with concealed registration numbers that are often used in rhino poaching.

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