National 22.9.2015 01:25 pm

Poaching still a huge problem for KNP

A rhino at the Kruger National Park. Pic: Benno Stander

A rhino at the Kruger National Park. Pic: Benno Stander

As the world celebrates Rhino Day, South Africa remains one of nations hardest hit by poaching, with about 800 rhino killed in the first nine months of 2015.

Most of these rhino were killed in the Kruger National Park (KNP), where poachers have killed about 600 rhino between January and mid-August, Lowvelder reported.

Last month, the head of anti-poaching operations at South African National Parks (SANParks), Johan Jooste, said rhino poaching was getting out of hand, with research showing there were at least 12 poaching groups operating at KNP at any given time.

Ken Maggs, chief of staff at ranger services in KNP, said it had become increasingly harder to fight poaching at the game reserve.

“We face a poaching squad armed with the most modern equipment, and we must fight them with standard-issue weapons, so we need more,” he said.

He added there were concerns about the psychological welfare of anti-poaching staff – from forensics staff right through to office staff.

“Post-traumatic stress syndrome is becoming a problem. This war against poachers is relentless,” he added.

A rhino following post-mortem in February 2015. Pic: Hanti Schrader

A rhino following post-mortem in February 2015. Pic: Hanti Schrader

The poaching crisis is apparently driven by demand for rhino horn in China and Vietnam. Rhino horns are said to have medicinal value, as they are thought to reduce fever, among other ailments.

Meanwhile, the department of environmental affairs is consulting widely on whether or not to make a submission on the lifting of the ban on international trade in rhino horn to the 2016 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which will place in South Africa.

Earlier this month, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority along with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) announced the implementation of a rhino dehorning programme to deter poachers.

However, environmental expert Dr Gerhard Verdoorn said although dehorning rhino helped in the curtailing of poaching, the practice was only a temporary deterrent to the overarching problem of poaching.

“Dehorning does help, but it does not stop poaching, as poachers sometimes shoot these dehorned rhino out of spite,” he said.

Verdoorn added the dehorning process also disrupted the animal’s social behaviour, as rhino were left defenceless.

– Caxton News Service

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