The recent increase in rhino poaching has resulted in numerous discussions over how to combat this threat to wildlife. Nature conservationists support the theory that the translocation of rhino to safe havens will save the species from poachers, whereas government officials remain skeptical as to whether these operations are worth the time, money and effort.
Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, voiced possible solutions to the problem of rhino poaching.
South Africa is considering a range of rhino strongholds, inclusive of national parks, provincial reserves, communal areas and private reserves and that the Department of Environmental Affairs was also looking into the benefits of moving some rhino out of the country.
South Africa is currently in talks with neighbouring Botswana and Zambia about possible translocation of rhino to these countries. Sam Ferreira, South African National Parks’ large mammal ecologist, said that up to 500 rhino could be removed from the country.
Out of the 631 rhinos that had been killed by poachers between January and 6 August 2014, a shocking amount of 408 were killed in the Kruger National Park. Ferreira said that in order to protect these species, they would have to be removed from areas where they are in threat of being poached.
In a bid to save them from the ongoing poaching crisis, conservationists have embarked on a monstrous but admirable project that aims to relocate at least 100 rhinos from zones with the highest poaching rates in South Africa to the lowest poaching areas in the whole of Africa, Botswana. In other words, conservationists are flying rhinos to safety.
The nonprofit organization behind the mission, Rhinos Without Borders, hopes that this bold move will not only shield the vulnerable animals from poaching, but will help seed new populations in the wild.
According to conservationist and filmmaker Beverly Joubert,
This is an emergency intervention. I do believe that if we don’t do this, rhinos could go extinct in certain parts of Africa.”
Poaching is a serious threat to rhinos. Since 1970, black rhino populations have been slashed from around 16,000 to just 4,000. Thanks to ongoing conservation efforts, white rhino numbers have rebounded after creeping dangerously close to extinction in 1970, but there are still only around 20,000 left.
Determined to drive change, the Jouberts established Rhinos Without Borders last year. They recently kicked off their ambitious relocation project by moving 10 rhinos from reserves in South Africa to a protected area in the country. The animals are currently being closely monitored for health problems and treated as necessary, but all being well they should be flown to an undisclosed area in Botswana within the next few months.
If all goes to plan, a further 25 will be relocated this year, followed by another 65 in 2016. Other than that, it is also not without any risks; the animals need to be sedated before they can be moved, which has around a 2-5% mortality rate. While an expensive option, flying the animals has its merits because it means that they need to be sedated for a shorter period than if they were moved by land.
The animals will then be moved to parks in Botswana with the hope of doubling the rhino population in this country within the next couple of years.
Unlike South Africa, Botswana has a zero-tolerance policy towards poaching. The government has also enlisted the help of the military to defend against poachers, who can be legally shot and killed if caught.
via The Deadly Beast