Efforts to halt escalating rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park are not delivering results, prompting SANParks to sell 200 rhinos, which will go to safer environments.
Gerry Swan, SANParks board member and chairperson of its conservation and tourism committee, said that a tender process has been started, reports Bloomberg, with the movement of rhinos to begin in March and possible destinations of rhinos currently being evaluated.
Up to 200 rhinos could be sold to private buyers in an effort to move them to safer locations. The Kruger National Park, where most rhinos are poached, has already moved at least 50 rhinos to safer areas of the park and other national parks. The rhinos have been moved away from the porous 350 km border with Mozambique, from where the majority of poachers originate – it is estimated that more than 500 poachers from Mozambique every month.
Between October and November last year, SANParks moved 29 rhinos from poaching hotspots in the park and 17 of these were fitted with tracking devices after their release.
The sale of rhinos by SANParks to private landowners, who comply with all security and habitat requirements, is part of the overall strategy to support the growth of viable populations in a range of areas in order to provide a basis for securing the protection and growth of the rhino meta-population in Southern Africa, SANParks said.
The Kruger National Park is still the hardest hit by poachers, notwithstanding an increase in ranger numbers as well as assistance from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), police and the defence industry. Denel Dynamics has one of its Seeker UAVs deployed in the world famous game reserve and the Ichikowitz Foundation has made a helicopter and fixed wing aircraft available to provide extra airborne surveillance.
Although final statistics for rhino poaching in 2014 from the Department of Environmental Affairs are not yet available, up to December 10 last year, 1 116 animals were poached in South Africa, against 1 004 for 2013 and 668 for 2012. However, it is estimated that true poaching-related rhino deaths are 30% higher than the official count as calves that die without their mothers and rhinos which are killed but do not have their horns poached, are not included in official statistics.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, as of 10 December some 367 people were arrested in connection with rhino poaching in 2014, up from 343 in 2013 and 267 in 2012.