Cape Town - Rhino poaching numbers has dropped in the last two years. Latest figures show that 363 rhino were poached in South Africa from January to April 2016, 41 down from 404 in the same period last year.
Drastic reaction to the obliteration of SA's rhino has slowed down the killing, as it evident in the statistics. But this is only because there are ordinary South Africans who are willing to put their lives on the line in order to save a species.
The Kruger National Park sprawls over two million hectares, an area which is supposed to provide a safe sanctuary for SA's incredible animals. Now, however, the Kruger's stature has placed it in the bullseye as the prime target for poachers in SA.
According to Ken Maggs, for the ranger core command in the Kruger National Park, 'a week goes not go by where we haven't had physical contact and gunfire with poachers...'
It can only be described as war.
These are just some of the hardships and risks the Kruger's rhino rangers face every day, according to Maggs:
- It's not uncommon to have one or two contacts with poachers each day
- At any given time, there are about five to 15 poacher groups in the Kruger
- Rangers have been forced to become para-militant, meaning they have to carry weapons and heavy artillery
- Rangers are on call 24/7, 365 days of the year. They are always reactionary, at the ready
- Poachers are highly militant, skilled and mobile. They won't hesitate to kill rangers who get in the way
- Rangers stand directly between rhinos and poachers. Although this is the most effective tool to stop poaching, it is also the most dangerous position to be in
- Rangers face being charged with murder and prosecution
- Rangers do not have a shoot-to-kill policy, unlike the poachers
- Rangers are fighting a rhino market syndicate, not only poachers. Poachers on the ground are fuelled by a growing market which funds the poaching
- In the Kruger, there have to be guards, watching the guards on duty
- Rangers face being killed in action – it’s an expectation
Check out the video below to see the video of Kruger's rhino rangers and how they combat poaching:
The video was created by Gideon van Eeden from Tafelberg Films for the Black Rhino Project.
South Africa's department of environmental affairs also ascribes the small victory in rhino poaching numbers this year to the rangers' work.
Minister Edna Molewa said at the start of April that, "Rhino poaching figures has relatively stabilised, thanks to the hard work done by all our people and Rangers on the ground, particularly."
The DEA listed five minimum requirements which will be implemented in the next financial year to create an environment conducive for rhino conservation in South Africa, and effectively address rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn.
While the debate around the legalisation of international rhino horn trade from SA will not be addressed at this year's COP17 conference in Sandton, other issues around the protection of endangered species are set to be weighed and debated. Read more here: CITES CoP17: What you need to know about this endangered species conference
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