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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More