Hundreds of rhinos to be evacuated from Kruger National Park

Move to protect South Africa’s endangered animals from poachers

A baby white rhinoceros walks with its mother in the Kruger National Park. While rhino poaching occurs across South Africa, Kruger has been hardest hit. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

A baby white rhinoceros walks with its mother in the Kruger National Park. While rhino poaching occurs across South Africa, Kruger has been hardest hit. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 01:00

Up to 500 rhinos will be evacuated from South Africa’s Kruger National Park in a bid to stem mounting losses of the endangered animals to poachers, the country’s environment minister has announced.

Minister Edna Molewa told reporters on Tuesday a decision had been made to move one of Africa’s Big Five animal species, which weigh up to a tonne each, because of the high numbers being killed on the famed park’s eastern border with Mozambique.

South Africa is home to 82 per cent of the world’s rhino population (21,000 animals), but since 2008, increasing numbers have been slaughtered for their horns, which are illegally sold on the Asian black market in traditional medicines, or as ornaments.

The latest survey by South Africa’s National Parks board shows that between 8,400 and 9,600 white rhino were in the Kruger National Park last year, while the black rhino population was pegged closer to 2,000 animals.

However, 601 rhino have been poached in the park, which is about the size of Wales, so far this year compared to 1,004 last year, and 668 in 2012.

“Relocations from the Kruger National Park and the creation of rhino strongholds could allow the total rhino population size of South Africa to continue to grow,” said Ms Molewa. The relocated rhino would find new homes in other state-owned provincial parks, private parks and communal areas, she said. Some animals could even be sent to neighbouring countries like Botswana or Zambia in a bid to keep them safe.

While rhino poaching occurs across South Africa, Kruger has been hardest hit. This is because the fencing along the park’s border with Mozambique has been taken down to give the animals free movement along migration routes.

This has made it easier for poachers recruited from Mozambique by middlemen working for crime syndicates to poach the animals and escape back to their home country.

Mozambiq

ue deal

Police minister Riah Phiyega, who attended the press conference with Ms Molewa, said a recent deal with the Mozambican government now allowed her officers and park rangers to carry out hot pursuits across the border to catch the perpetrators.

She added proper legal procedures were followed to decide where apprehended suspects should face charges.

“We [the South African and Mozambican authorities] discuss if the arrested should be left in Mozambique or . . . brought to South Africa so we can avoid any issues of rendition,” she said.

So far this year 171 arrests have been made in connection with rhino poaching in Kruger.