COMMENT AND NEWS: The information is shocking. It is a severe indictment of the lack of commitment to conservation by the South African government. The Times reports from Cape Town that Kruger National Park is the home to the world’s largest concentration of rhinoceroses. However, over the past 10 years the reserve has lost two thirds of its rhinos to poaching.
I guess you all know about it: rhino horn is coveted in China for its aphrodisiac properties. Incidentally, it is made of keratin, the same material that makes your nails and hair. There is no scientific evidence to support that it has any medicinal benefits. Because of this superstition rhinos are being decimated. A rhino horn fetches £55,000 a kilogram in Asia. The price that Asians put on a product that they think that makes them good in bed.
The decline is so severe that it is making it much harder for poachers to find rhinos to kill them. The information comes from a report by Sanparks. It runs the reserve which is about the size of Israel. White rhinos are predominantly targeted because they have larger horns. The numbers have dropped from 10,621 in 2011 to 3,529 currently (estimated). The black rhino which is critically endangered have a current number of 268 down from 415 over the same period.
Charlie Mayhew, of the British charity Tusk, which funds anti-poaching measures in the national park said that the figures were “incredibly alarming and suggest that the reductions in poaching are because there are fewer left to poach.”
South Africa’s shadow environment minister, David Bryant, said: “The government must do more to protect these magnificent animals”. I’m sure the South African government has been saying the same thing for the past 10 years.
Kruger National Park has a 480 km border with Mozambique. This makes it harder to police. The economies of Vietnam and China have grown increasing demand for rhino horns. Tourists are saying that there are very few sightings of rhinoceroses in the park.
Botswana’s government said that they would dehorn the remaining white rhino population in their country. Poaching gangs have increasingly turned to the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s wilderness and a UNESCO world Heritage site where they have killed black rhino leaving the population unviable in terms of survival. South Africa sent some of their rhinoceroses to neighbouring Botswana which at the time was considered a safe haven.