Poachers, aided by game rangers, have killed every single rhino in the Mozambique section of one of Southern Africa’s most vaunted transfrontier parks.
The director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s wildlife crime and consumer awareness programme, Kelvin Alie, said poachers had killed 15 rhino in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park last month, the last remaining animals from an estimated population of more than 300 when the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park was proclaimed in 2002.
The administrator of the Limpopo National Park told media that 30 rangers will appear in court soon, charged with involvement in the killing of the rhino.
“It is tragic beyond tears that we learn game rangers have now become the enemy in the fight to protect rhino from being poached for their horns.
“That the entire rhino population of part of such an important conservation initiative can be wiped out – and with the help of wildlife enforcement officers – speaks volumes about the deadly intent of the wildlife trade.
They will stop at nothing to get to their quarry,” said Alie.
Limpopo National Park is part of the Great Limpopo National Park, which straddles South Africa (Kruger National Park), Mozambique (Limpopo National Park) and Gonarezhou (Zimbabwe) a conservation area of about 35 000km².
The department of environmental affairs said on Friday that the Kruger National Park continued to be the reserve most severely hit by rhino poaching in South Africa.
Since January 2013, 180 rhino have been poached in Kruger, out of a national total of 249.
A total of 668 rhino were poached in South Africa last year.
Rhino horn is most in demand in Vietnam and Indonesia where it is incorrectly used as an aid in the treatment of certain illnesses.
Mozambique is also being flagged amid concerns that poaching of elephants for their ivory is on the increase.
Elephant ivory is in high demand in China where it is seen as “white gold” and an important vehicle for investment.
The IFAW will later this year partner with Interpol in providing training for customs and wildlife law enforcement officers in Mozambique.
This forms part of a worldwide capacity building initiative.
IFAW has since 2006 trained more than 1 600 government representatives at the forefront of the struggle against wildlife crime in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean.
The IFAW director for Southern Africa, Jason Bell, said: “Cross border co-operation and intelligence-led enforcement are the only way we can halt poaching and trafficking.
“It is too big a problem for any one country to tackle.
“We need range states, transit countries and destination countries to share their law enforcement resources, including intelligence, or we’ll never be in a position to shut down the kingpins of the international ivory trade.
“Poaching and the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn is an issue of global significance and needs a global response if we are to turn the tables on the killers.
“This cannot happen in a vacuum.
“Consumer nations – China, Vietnam and Indonesia – have to make a concerted effort to reduce the demand for these products in their own backyards because otherwise the battle will be lost.”