A strike by almost half the rangers at the Kruger National Park entered its sixth week yesterday, amid mounting concern over the security of the country’s largest rhino population.
Yesterday, the national death toll for the year so far rose to 135 rhinos, with 75 killings in the park.
Park managers have warned the 360 strikers that SANParks will stick to the principle of “no work, no pay”.
Over the past few weeks, SANParks has refused to release official statistics on how many rhinos have been poached during the strike – although at least four of its staff were arrested late last month on suspicion of shooting rhinos in the Pretoriuskop section of the facility.
Environmental Affairs Department spokesman Albi Modise said yesterday that 135 rhinos had been poached this year, with 75 killings (55 percent of the national total) inside Kruger.
He said a suspected poacher was shot dead in the park last week and a fifth staff member had been arrested in connection with the Pretoriuskop killings.
Meanwhile, SANParks human resources manager Leonard Mavuso said two meetings had been held recently to resolve the dispute, but the rangers’ representatives had been “intransigent and unreasonable” in demanding salary and allowance hikes ranging between 78 percent and 1 200 percent.
Mavuso said the strike was not supported by the only two recognised trade unions, Hospersa and Saccawu. He also condemned the striking workers for recent “unlawful acts of violence, rioting and intimidation of non-striking members and tourists”.
A spokesman for the striking workers could not be reached for comment.
Anyone with tip-offs and information on rhino killings can phone the government rhino poaching hotline at 080 020 5005.