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. "You need your heart to do this," he says about his risky job. (Photo: Gillian Parker for VOA)
    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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora