Header Ads

Kruger National Park’s rhinos remain under constant threat from poachers

Despite an aggressive rhino dehorning project, the Kruger National Park’s rhinos remain under constant threat, with poachers having shifted tactics and direction of attack.

More than 800 rhino were dehorned in the past financial year in the Kruger (KNP), according to SANParks. While the number of rhino poached in the park has dropped – 42 were killed for their horns from January to June this year – that the numbers of live rhino have dropped considerably over the years is cause for concern.

In August, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said the Kruger’s rhinos had been “severely battered” over the past 15 years and their numbers, which Creecy wouldn’t confirm, are believed to have dropped from more than 10 000 to under 3 000.


According to KNP spokesperson Ike Phaahla, poachers have moved from the “traditional” southwest border crossings to the west where KNP and Mozambique’s Parque Nacional do Limpopo (Limpopo National Park) share KNP’s entire border.

Nearly half of the Kruger’s border (north to south) shared a boundary with its neighbours, and with the war in the north of Mozambique there had been a drain on resources.

“The game wardens are still there, they just don’t have resources,” said Phaahla. “And because of the dehorning, the poachers come over the mountains and target the dehorned rhinos for their stumps of horns. They stack them up to make an entire horn.”

Dehorning is an expensive and intricate process, similar to cutting fingernails on a larger scale. Like fingernails, rhino horn have a bed from which the horn grows and it is this part poachers are still after, shaving the stump with a panga or axe down to the skull. And the poachers move fast.

Last Wednesday, rangers in the Crocodile River section reported hearing a single gunshot. “Field rangers were close by and reacted immediately,” said Phaahla.

They had to cover a distance of approximately 200m-250m in the direction of the shot by running and then spotted three suspects chopping off a rhino’s horn. Phaahla said the poachers bolted and kept running as several warning shots were fired in their direction.

ALSO READ: SA rhino farm sale ‘a lifeline thrown to a near-threatened species’

SA law

South African law dictated that law enforcement officers and any other person may not shoot at someone who was running away if they no longer posed an immediate threat. So the poachers escaped, leaving their backpacks, food and some clothing.

K9 Rambo from Lower Sabie was later sent out to try and track the suspects, however, “it was impossible to follow up, conditions [were] unfavourable”. “The rhino shot was a dehorned animal. Both horns were recovered and are currently stored in the Skukuza vault, including all the items on the scene,” Phaahla said.

Field ranger X – his real name is concealed to protect his identity – is the handler of Scent, a bloodhound-cross-Malinois tracker dog. It’s a fitting name for an animal bred to purpose and, unlike her Belgian Malinois colleagues, Scent is a lot friendlier, offering face licks with enough drool to wash a small car.

At the time of The Citizen’s visit to the KNP K9 centre, it was roughly 42°C and Scent was feeling the heat, lolling around on her back and trying to expend as little energy as possible. However, when on the trail of someone – poachers or people who have gone missing in the park, which happened from time to time – once Scent is in her harness and on a puppy line (a leash of about 15m) she becomes all business.


According to her handler, Scent has caused about 23 arrests and assisted in another 17. Scent and her handler have been working together since 2017, after he went on a four-week course with her when she was a year old.

“I have my own dogs, but I love her. She doesn’t give me any problems,” he said with a grin. His digi-camo was faded and worn from many hours in the bush, and at the entrance to the dog unit thousands of snares used to catch bushmeat were stacked by the gate.

He said the dog handlers, when not busy chasing poachers, which had slowed down considerably, now spent their time trying to pull as many snares as possible from the western boundaries the park shared with its neighbours.

It’s one war which had been ongoing for as long as he and his colleagues could remember and there was no end in sight. People were hungry, he said and what they didn’t eat, they sold.

The park was seen as a never-ending resource for bushmeat and while game such as buck and bush pig were preferable as food, snares were indiscriminate killers.

“The poaching war goes on,” he said, but his attitude was undefeated and, like the other field rangers, he was not quitting any time soon.

ALSO READ: Investigations underway after senior SANParks manager killed by hippo in Kruger National Park

from The Citizen https://www.citizen.co.za/news/kruger-national-parks-rhinos-under-constant-threat-poachers/

No comments

Powered by Blogger.

Copyright (c) 2021 DOVEUPDATE All Right Reserved.