Respected wildlife veterinarian, Dr Kobus du Toit, calculates that there are possibly only between 1 500 and 3 000 white rhinos left in the KNP and he challenges any ecologist to refute his figures.
According to Dr Salomon Joubert, former managing executive of Kruger, calculations by Dr Sam Ferreira, the large-mammal ecologist in KNP, quoted 10 621 in 2010, 10 495 for 2011 and 9093 for 2012. The 2013 survey gave an estimate of 8 400 to 9 600 white rhinos and one concluded in September 2014, between 8 000 and 9 290.
According to author Chris van der Linde, who wrote Kruger National Park: Questions and Answers, released in March 2014, the number of white rhinos in the park were 10 500.
However, Joubert estimates the number to be around 6 000. Recently SANParks received a stamp of approval from the scientific community regarding its rhino survey for 2013 and the methods used. Counting exactly how many rhinos are in KNP is difficult. The method of cutting the entire landscape of the park up into blocks of three metres by three metres and determining an average is being used and not to count each and every rhino within the park.
“Determining numbers is becoming less feasible since the department decided earlier this year not to release official poaching figures on a monthly basis,” Du Toit added.
He is also of the opinion that Kruger should be cleared of poachers by intelligence experts from the outside. He also said that “the rhino horn should be removed from the smuggling basket that involves drugs, human trafficking, cigarettes weapons and alcohol”.
During the official release of the latest rhino numbers, KNP managing executive Paul Daphne, said: “SANParks has full confidence in the integrity of our rhino-counting methodology, and in the experienced team of scientists, counters and pilots who implement the rhino count.”
Different modelling techniques and numbers will be part of a civil court case scheduled to be heard in the Pretoria High Court in September. In this case, two private rhino farmers, John Hume and Johan Kruger, with the assistance of Du Toit, will challenge environmental affairs minister, Edna Molewa, to lift the moratorium on trade in rhino horns in South Africa.
– Caxton News Service