Almost 6 000 rhinos butchered since 2008 (South Africa)


Albertina Nakale, New Era

Date Published

Due to the escalating incidences of elephant and rhino poaching, the
South African Tourism strongly suggests in order to win the war
against poaching there is a need to quash the demand for tusks and
horn products.

Namibian elephant mortalities have risen steeply this year, bringing
the total to a devastating 67 animals butchered since January. In
August three more rhino carcasses – possibly poached for horns – were
discovered in Etosha National Park, pushing the figure of known rhino
mortalities to 37 for this year and bringing the total rhino deaths
since last year to 162.

About 43 rhinos have been unlawfully killed since January and one of
the cases involved rhino poaching in Erindi Game Reserve. According to
the available data, since 2008 poachers have killed at least 5 940
African rhinos.

Rhino poaching has created an ecological crisis. By the end of 2015,
the number of African rhinos killed by poachers had increased for the
sixth year in a row with at least 1 338 rhinos killed by poachers
across Africa in 2015.

These statistics are compiled by International Union for Conservation
of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino
Specialist Group (AfRSG).

In an exclusive interview with New Era on Saturday, South African
tourism board chief executive officer Sisa Ntshona agreed that
neighbouring South Africa is no exception, as poaching is rife there.

He said they have been trying to respond to the crisis, but are still
not winning the war due to the lucrative market for rhino and elephant
products believed to exist in Asia.

“We don’t have the perfect answers yet and policing is part of it. But
policing something that is a big phenomenon within itself is tough.
Until we kill demand for the rhino products we will forever be chasing
our tails.

“Every time an animal is killed it’s sold somewhere else. It’s a
journey. We can’t just say it’s a South African or Namibian problem,
because internationally, we are perceived the same,” he noted.

Consequently, he said there is a need for both countries to
communicate and collaborate in the fight against wildlife crime. “We
have to make sure we kill demand for these products in the markets
that have been identified,” Ntshona maintained.

He said current measures in place to stop poaching, such as de-horning
rhinos, are “merely stoppage measures”, as the animal loses its
natural disposition.

The recent arrest of the 52-year-old school principal of Simataa
Senior Secondary School in Linyanti Constituency in the Zambezi
Region, who was among a group of suspects suspected of running a
syndicate that poaches elephants for their coveted ivory, has set
tongues wagging.

The principal is among four suspects arrested in connection with the
alleged recent poaching of three elephant bulls.

Ministry of Environment and Tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda
yesterday revealed to New Era that the local community had alerted
officials to their discovery of one of the carcasses.

One carcass was discovered on October 11 and two more were discovered
around October 16 in the Salambala Conservancy.

Upon further investigation, he said the police traced the suspects and
eventually confiscated four tusks, a .375 hunting rifle fitted with
silencer and telescope, a bush knife, a traditional axe, plus several
rounds of ammunition.
Muyunda said one pair of elephant tusks is still missing.

Thereafter, the four suspects – including the principal – were
arrested. A case of poaching was opened at Ngoma police station and
the suspects appeared in Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court on October
19 and 20, where three were denied bail.

Namibia has the largest population of black rhino in the world,
numbering about 5 000. The statistics show that about 1 175 rhinos
were poached in South Africa during 2015, a slight decrease on the
previous year when a record 1 215 rhinos were illegally killed.