Saturday, August 16, 2014

South Africa to Fight Poaching by Transporting Rhinos From Kruger National Park

Dehorned white rhinos in Kruger National Park 

It has recently been reported that South Africa has planned to transport up to 500 rhinos from Kruger National Park to combat a surge in poaching that has been decimating the animals over the past few years. Officials indicated that the operation could have some of the rhinos transferred to Botswana and Zambia as South Africa deals with the poaching epidemic that has claimed more than 630 animals so far this year with 408 of them in Kruger National Park. The recent census has showed that between 8,400 and 9,600 white rhinos remain in the national park. Despite the ongoing threat of poaching, the rhino population has sustained with a yearly mortality rate of roughly 8 percent balanced by an 8 percent birth rate. The operation will consist of tracking down rhinos in distant and tough wilderness and tranquilizing them with darts from helicopters. It is said that transporting one rhino would cost $1,500 or more. However, transporting Kruger National Park's rhinos is nothing new; park rangers move some number of rhinos every year with park management using profits from sales to private game reserves to help finance conservation efforts. According to Markus Hofmeyr, Kruger National Park head veterinarian, a record of 250 rhinos were shifted in 2009 but the extent of poaching had forced it take a more extreme approach. The focus of this mission will be on Kruger National Park's eastern border with Mozambique, where poachers from poverty-stricken communities are attracted by the assurance of easy money to commit wildlife crimes.

It is an extremely thoughtful idea that South Africa has decided on a new approach to combating poaching that has been decimating its wildlife, particularly rhinos, in the past few years. The country is renowned for being the home of the vast majority of the world's rhino population with 18,000 white rhinos and 3,000 black rhinos. Due to the abundance of rhinos, the country has suffered tremendously from illegal poaching that claimed more than 1,000 animals last year to meet the growing demand of rhino horn which is strongly desired as an essential ingredient in traditional medicine in China and Vietnam. Earlier, South Africa probably carried out a much more direct approach in combating poaching. That is, authorities conducted patrols in Kruger National Park for poachers and directly confronted them when sighting them. However, at the same time, rhinos continued to fall prey in the hands of poachers and increasing the death toll. But now, with this new strategy underway, it appears the rhinos may have a second chance. South Africa has already identified Botswana and Zambia as likely places of relocation with Botswana being known for its extensive areas of somewhat populated and rugged wilderness. However, it is important to keep in mind that poachers will pursue the rhinos following their relocation from Kruger National Park and it is therefore crucial that authorities in Botswana, Zambia, or any other nearby country should remain on high alert for poachers and their activities. This is especially important in the case of black rhinos which are listed as "critically endangered." At the same time, vital measurements are required to help save Africa's elephants which are also being heavily poached at a dangerous rate for their tusks to meet the growing demand of ivory in Asia and the pangolin which is being ruthlessly slaughtered for its scales that are highly valued as fashion products and its meat as a delicacy.

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