News / Africa

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Kobus de Wed of the Crime Investigation Unit uses a metal detector to locate the bullet which may be matched to the gun used to hunt the rhino. (Photo: Gillian Parker for VOA)
Kobus de Wed of the Crime Investigation Unit uses a metal detector to locate the bullet which may be matched to the gun used to hunt the rhino. (Photo: Gillian Parker for VOA)

South Africa's flagship Kruger Park, home to the world's largest population of rhinos, is on the frontlines of a poaching war. The government has announced a plan to move up to 500 rhinos in an attempt to increase their population and counter a poaching epidemic that has seen hundreds of rhinos killed for their horns just this year. The relocations are just part of a multi-pronged approach to save the animals. But in the face of the lucrative illegal horn market - is it enough?  

Two rhinos graze on the tall grass in the Lower Sabie region of Kruger National Park, unaware of their bloated cousin lying dead just a meter away. Vultures eye the body greedily from a nearby tree while an orchestra of flies feast on the latest victim of poaching.

An investigator from the South Africa National Parks Crime Unit gingerly steps around the butchered animal to collect evidence - in the hopes of catching the perpetrators. A metal detector locates the bullet inside the body before the team dissects the carcass.

Poachers shot the rhino and broke it’s back with an axe to immobilize it before gouging out its horns - the prize they hope to sell to Asians who view rhino horn as a status symbol or erroneously think it is a healing agent.

Ranger Lawrence Baloi says his job has changed from focusing on conservation to security.
Ranger Lawrence Baloi says his job has changed from focusing on conservation to security. "You need your heart to do this," he says about his risky job. (Photo: Gillian Parker for VOA)

Lawrence Baloi, a  ranger of the Lower Sabie, knows how easy it is for young men to be coaxed into the hunt.

“They are clever… if someone got a rhino, it’s like a big boss, mega big party, all the ladies - they rise to him. So, he is sending information that: guys, [while] you [are] busy sitting here, we are making money there. Follow me next. That’s why those groups escalate every day,” said Baloi.

South Africa has grappled with a wave of poaching that has seen nearly 700 rhinos killed since January, with 458 slaughtered in Kruger Park alone.

Relocation plan

The government plans to relocate up to 500 rhinos to other state-owned and private parks. Nearby countries, Botswana and Zambia, might also be considered as safe havens.

South Africa has relocated 1,450 animals from Kruger over the past 15 years to manage herd populations. 

The colossal operation involves tracking the animals in the rugged bush, darting them with tranquilizers from helicopters and then moving them in customized trucks.

“The whole success of rhino survival, in Africa at least, has pretty much been based on the fact they were translocated to different areas. With the threat of poaching, we want to create opportunities where they can breed successfully and quickly, so we can off-set some of the poaching losses and in time, maximize on growth,” said Kruger’s head vet, Markus Hofmeyr.

Lucrative trade

Relocating rhinos might disperse the poachers’ targets, but SAN Park’s teams know it won’t be enough to put off criminal networks behind the lucrative trade. Only 400 rangers have the task of patrolling the park’s two million hectares.

“The poachers and the syndicates are driven to be successful because the reward is so great. The tactics of the poachers evolve incredibly fast… it is incumbent on us to adapt as fast as they do,” said Bruce Leslie, part of the Special Operations team.

In 2010, poachers could get $7,500 for a set of horns.  But now they get much more, according to Kobus de Wed of the Crime Investigation Unit.  

“A lot of poachers were fatally wounded, the poachers decided that they didn't want to be paid as hunting cells. They want to be paid by kilogram, in weight,” said de Web.

A large horn can now fetch a maximum price of $120,000 by weight.

Riches like these have attracted criminal networks operating from southern Africa to China. So while relocating and protecting rhinos might spread the risk or outfox a few poachers, experts say it will not be enough until international coordination follows the money trail and brings down the rhino horn kingpins.

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs