Kruger migrating rhino to safe havens

2015-08-04 21:33

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mbombela - As a helicopter hovers above, men emerge from the bush, using rope to haul a one-ton male white rhino they have sedated with a dart fired from the air.

The animal is one of hundreds to be moved from "hotspots" in Kruger National Park where they are at risk from soaring demand for rhino horn.

"Our priority is to move the animals from 'hot spots' near the boundary fence," said Markus Hofmeyr, the head vet for South African National Parks.

While a public backlash rages against a Minnesota dentist who killed Zimbabwe's Cecil the lion, Hofmeyr's focus is not on wealthy big game hunters but on the poachers who killed over 1 200 rhino last year.

That was a fourfold increase over 2010, due largely to increasing demand for rhino horn in newly affluent Asian countries such as Vietnam where it is prized in traditional medicine.

Most of the poachers are drawn from neighouring Mozambique, which borders the Kruger and remains one of the world's poorest nations despite huge gas and coal finds.

South Africa is home to over 80% of the world's rhino population with over 20 000. About 5 000 of these are on private reserves, whose owners derive an income from ecotourism and legal hunts and could earn a new income steam if the ban on trade in rhino horn is ever lifted.

After Hofmayr's team coaxes a sedated rhino to a dirt road, they gently tip it over and set about drilling a hole into the horn to install a microchip. If it is subsequently poached and the horn removed, it can be traced.

Hofmeyr also hurriedly draws blood from the animal for research. Then the rhino is brought to its feet and led by rope about 40m to a waiting crate, to be lifted by crane onto a flatbed truck.

The basic methods of capturing rhino remain the same as in the early 1960s, when the Kruger - then seen as a "safe haven" - was restocked with white rhinos from the Umfolozi Game Reserve to the south.

Mortality rates were high during the early efforts to capture live rhinos. Now the operations use safer drugs and one witnessed by Reuters was completed in just over an hour, with darting and tracking done from helicopters.

For security reasons, the exact locations of the darting operations, precise removal numbers and the rhinos' new homes are kept private. The government has previously said it might move 200 this year to "strongholds."

"Rhino really aren't safe anywhere," said Hofmeyr.

Read more on:    sanparks  |  mbombela  |  rhino poaching
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.