Surge in rhino poaching

South Africa's rhino

South Africa’s rhino populations are under threat from poachers, with KwaZulu-Natal game parks reporting that at least 12 white rhino have been killed since January.

An investigation, the details of which are under wraps, is underway in the Kruger National Park and it is believed by some that as many as 20 rhino may have been killed this year. Four rhino were killed over the last weekend in the Masinda section of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, said Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife (EKZNW) spokesman Jeff Gaisford.

Rangers in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park had initially found only one rhino, but subsequent investigations had revealed a further three carcasses. “The horns of all four animals had been cleanly removed with a sharp instrument indicating that someone with considerable experience had been at work,” said Gaisford.

Post mortems conducted the next day by the EKZNW veterinary surgeon revealed that all four animals had been shot with a heavy calibre rifle some five days previously.

Gaisford said that up until last year poaching numbers had been extremely low and that in some years not a single rhino had been lost. “We had a long quiet run,” he said.

Raymond Travers, spokesman for Kruger National Park, said that poaching of rhino had “increased dramatically” over the past year. He declined to comment on how many cases had been reported in the past year.

SA National Parks spokeswoman Wanda Mkutshulwa said: “There is an investigation underway. Until we have made headway and got a handle on it we have decided as an organisation not to talk about it.” Police have been called in to investigate the case.

Dr Jacques Flamand, leader of the World Wildlife Fund and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, said he believed that more than 20 rhino had been killed this year. Private game parks had so far not been affected by the surge in poaching, he said.

There were concerns that a Vietnamese or Chinese syndicate were possibly behind the poaching. Most of the rhino that had been poached were White Rhino.

Flamand said that demand for the rhino horn corresponded with the increasing economic wealth in China.  Ground into a powder, the rhino horn is used in traditional Asian medicine as a fever reducing potion. The horns are also in demand for use as dagger handles in Yemen and Oman.

South Africa has nearly 14,000 white rhino and less than 4000 black rhino. Sapa

by Giordano Stolley

Source: The South African

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