Rise in KZN rhino poaching

LATEST statistics about rhino poaching provide both encouraging signs and concerning new trends.

That was the opinion of poaching expert Richard Emslie at the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife symposium in Howick on ‘Contemporary Conservation Practice’.

He said while there are signs that rhino poaching may be slowing down, it is concerning that rhino horn is now also becoming an investment item as opposed to just being used for medicinal purposes or as a status symbol.

In KZN, conservation and law enforcement agencies are adapting to new poaching tactics after tough measures in the Kruger National Park led to poachers moving to KZN.

Nationwide, almost 6 000 rhino have been slaughtered in the past eight years, with 1 175 killed in 2015 alone.

This year, 702 rhinos have been poached up to the end of August.

This is 125 animals less compared to the same period last year.

Tourism threat

Speaking at a conference dealing with rhino poaching in Johannesburg, Prof Berendien Lubbe of the University of Pretoria said that future visitor numbers can drop if the situation does not improve.

He said a large section of visitors was concerned and ‘suspicious’ about the lack of information about rhino poaching when visiting parks.

A surprising result was that almost 70% of visitors surveyed indicated that the sound of anti-poaching helicopter patrols ruined the experience of visiting a game reserve to reconnect with nature and that this could deter them from returning.

More than 170 visitors to the Kruger National Park and the Hilltop and Mpila resorts in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park were questioned.

Forty percent were foreign visitors.

Poaching in KZN

Provincial rhino security head Cedric Coetzee said that rhino poaching in KZN has surged to the highest levels in more than a century, with 132 killed this year alone.

This represents a 400% increase over the last five years.

The number of poachers arrested has doubled over the past year. Last year, 97 were killed compared to 34 in 2011.

During one particularly bloody episode about six weeks ago, a gang believed to be from Limpopo slaughtered 23 rhinos in two weeks in the HluhluweiMfolozi Park.

Many of the recent deaths at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi have been in the vulnerable corridor section, where a public tar road cuts through the centre of the park.

Coetzee said security in the Corridor had been tightened and Ezemvelo was also establishing intensive protection zones (IPZs) in local rhino reserves.

‘We estimate that they take about 20 minutes to remove the horns and get out.

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