Poachers have for the first time in a decade killed an elephant in the Kruger National Park, while 245 rhinos have been poached in the park this year.
The South African National Parks (SANParks) said the elephant was killed in the Pafuri region in the northern part of the Kruger National Park (KNP).
According to SANParks Rangers Corp Officer Commanding, Major General (Ret) Johan Jooste, forensic evidence suggests that the elephant bull was purposefully shot for its tusks, which were hacked off and carried away by suspected poachers.
He said rangers patrolling the area noticed footprints of approximately four individuals leading towards Mozambique leaving the park. “Upon further investigations, which involved backtracking, the rangers on patrol came upon the elephant carcass.”
SANParks Acting Chief Executive Officer, Abe Sibiya, said: “Given the situation in the rest of the continent in relation to rampant poaching of elephants we have known that it was a matter of time before South Africa got targeted as well. Though our focus has been largely on curbing rhino poaching we have also been preparing ourselves to fight the poaching of elephants as well.
“We are saddened by this latest incident but are confident that the dedication and efforts of our rangers and our partners in the security sector will eventually prevail over this malady,” SA News quotes him as saying.
Meanwhile, rhino poaching in the park continues at near-record levels, with 245 rhinos killed in the park this year, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs. The total number of rhinos killed across South Africa this year stands at 376, compared to 1 004 in 2013, 668 in 2012 and 448 in 2011. The only province not affected by poaching this year has been the Northern Cape. A total of 39 rhinos have been poached in Limpopo, 37 in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in the North West province.
The Department of Environmental Affairs on Wednesday said that 106 people have been arrested in connection with poaching this year, including 45 in the Kruger National Park. Last year 343 people were arrested in relation to poaching, up from 267 in 2012 and 232 in 2011.
The majority of poachers in the Kruger park come across the border from Mozambique. As a result, since June 2013 a number of steps have been taken by South Africa and Mozambique to reduce the menace of rhino poaching. These steps include the immediate maintenance and erection of fencing along the eastern boundary of Kruger with Mozambique; strengthening the buffer zone in Mozambique through the establishment of the Greater Lubombo Conservancy; creating a protection zone in the Limpopo National Park; deploying a well-trained and armed anti-poaching unit for joint collaboration with the Kruger National Park team and the synchronisation of operational plans between the Limpopo and Kruger National Parks.
On April 17 this year the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Management to curb poaching and have identified a number of ways to implement the agreement. The Department of Environmental Affairs on Wednesday said the two countries have concluded a draft of an Implementation Plan, which should be finalised and signed by the end of July 2014.
Discussions have started on fundraising projects to address the scourge of rhino poaching, wildlife trafficking in general, community development issues and raise awareness about the plight of the rhino. Talks have also been held regarding the strengthening of enforcement mechanisms to ensure rhino poaching is nipped in the bud.