Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SA Wildlife Parks Become Killing Fields

South Africa’s rhino population is under attack, with an estimated 100 gunned down for their horns over the past year — a staggering 1000% increase compared with 2007.

See previous posts;
Rhino carnage continues

Surge in rhino poaching

Government officials and private landowners this week confirmed a massive increase in rhino poaching over the past year, raising fears of a wildlife killing spree similar to those decimating reserves in neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

It is the first time in more than 15 years that the situation has spiralled out of control.

And it is not just protected rhino in the firing line: several other wildlife species are now being targeted because of a rampant trade in bush meat. Authorities are battling a growing army of armed poachers, whose ranks are swelling because of rural poverty.

This week the
Sunday Times established that:

  • The number of rhinos poached within SA National Parks’ land increased by nearly 300% in 2008 (36 rhinos) compared with 2007 (10 rhinos);
  • An estimated 50 rhinos were poached on private game reserves in 2008 ; and
  • Thirteen rhinos were shot dead on Christmas Day last year, including six on a private reserve in North West.
The situation has prompted a crackdown on poachers that involves the SA National Parks, a Gauteng provincial task team and organised police crime units in Mpumalanga, North West and Limpopo.

Although the exact reason for the increase remains unclear, wildlife experts suspect sophisticated poaching cartels are taking advantage of ineffective law enforcement.

There is also speculation that a recent tightening of restrictions on legal rhino hunting has prevented trophy horns from ending up as contraband.

The government issues about 200 rhino hunting licences a year, but has moved to tighten control of the horns — placing a moratorium on their sale or trade — after it emerged that buyers were posing as hunters to get hold of the horns.

The spiralling cost of private hunts has also prompted buyers to turn to poachers for an alternative horn supply, despite massive penalties.

The problem is fuelled by a significant increase in available animals in the country’s estimated 9500 private game reserves. Previously, poaching was mostly restricted to government parks.

Wildlife authorities this week confirmed the poaching crisis, but said they were puzzled by the sudden increase. Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism deputy director Sonja Meintjies conceded the problem may be indirectly related to rhino hunting because of soaring prices in the animal trade.

“We don’t have a handle on it (the reasons for poaching),” said Jeff Gaisford, spokesman for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, who confirmed a huge increase in poached rhinos in the province’s parks.

“It could be because of the economic downturn or because some guy in Taiwan wants to make a lot of money.

4 Opinion(s):

FishEagle said...

Thanks for a good article. It is good to get this message out. For some reason conservation is trying to keep it quiet. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Anonymous said...

Odd - they talk about the trade in bush meat. I would have thought that the horn would be the reason.

Loggi said...

I think their remark
“We don’t have a handle on it... says it all.

Werner said...

I have been telling folks in Canada that my prediction is that there will be no animals left in Africa in 20 years.
It seems that I may be too optimistic.......