Eight more white rhinoceros have been killed by poachers in the Kruger National Park, despite the deployment of high-tech equipment and extra rangers at so-called ‘hot spots’ within the flagship reserve.
In a written reply to a parliamentary question, Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said “eight white rhinos, two impalas and a zebra” were poached in January this year, compared to “seven white rhinos, two impalas and one kudu” during the same month the year before.
Her reply contains details of “sustainable steps taken” to curb poaching in the park. These include:
> the deployment of 58 new field rangers – taking the total number of rangers to 350 – to poaching hot spots;
> the purchase of 19 motorbikes to help with patrols;
> the acquisition of new night-vision equipment for use by crew of the SANParks Air Service unit’s two helicopters; and
> the purchase of another ultra-light aircraft, bringing the total to two, for use in anti-poaching operations. The air service unit also has three fixed-wing aircraft.
Sonjica said the SA National Defence Force would take over from the SA Police Service in patrolling the park’s international border with Mozambique “during the later part” of this year.
Over the past two years, the number of rhinos poached in the Kruger, and in other reserves around the country, has risen dramatically.
On January 22, Sanparks chief executive officer David Mabunda said in a statement that at least 14 rhino had been poached since the start of the year, seven in the Kruger and seven in North West.
This brought the total number of rhino killed in the past three years to 93. There had been 48 arrests made over this period.
Mabunda said at the time that plans to bring the military to patrol the Kruger’s border with Mozambique were at an advanced stage.
“South Africans must realise that we are not dealing with your ordinary petty criminal here, these poachers are members of well-resourced syndicates and are also involved in chilling crimes like human trafficking, arms smuggling, prostitution and drug trafficking,” he said.