South Africa boosts efforts to protect Kruger rhinos
South African announced Sunday it was beefing up the number of rangers in the world-renowned Kruger national park after an alarming jump in the number of rhinos slain by poachers for their horns.
“This ongoing poaching of our rhino population is a source of great concern for the government,” said Environment Minister Edna Molewa. “It requires of us all as a collective to take drastic measures to help combat it.”
Kruger, one of South Africa’s top tourist destinations, has been hit hard by poachers, with 252 rhinos killed there in 2011 — more than half the estimated 448 killed last year across South Africa. The 2010 figure was 333.
The dramatic spike in rhino killings has been driven by demand for its use in Asian traditional medicine, especially in China and Vietnam, where it is believed to cure cancer despite scientific evidence to the contrary.
Poachers are using high-powered weapons and veterinary tranquilisers to dart rhinos before hacking off their horns.
“The government of South Africa views the illegal killing of this national treasure in a very serious light and will continue to prioritise our fight against this crime jointly with our law enforcement agencies,” Molewa said.
She told a press conference in the capital Pretoria that the government would be boosting the number of rangers in Kruger by 150 from 500 currently to try to address the poaching onslaught.
A 150-kilometre (95-mile) electric barrier will also be installed along the border between the Kruger and neighbouring Mozambique, where many of the poachers are recruited.
South Africa is home to about 20,000 rhinos, or between 70 and 80 percent of the global population of the giant mammal.