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Rhino Wars

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Julian Freimond of leading game insurance broker, Wildlife Risk Solutions monitors the poaching situation in Southern Africa carefully as this crime impacts heavily on the wildlife breeders, game ranchers and nature reserves across the area who are his clients. He points out that a report circulated last year by the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and wildlife-trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, said that poaching had reached a 15-year high, pushing animals close to extinction. Approximately 1 500 rhino horns were traded illegally over the last 3 years, despite a long-standing ban on international trade.

Last year, 122 rhinos were killed in South Africa. Predictions are that at the current poaching rate 180 to 200 will be killed this year. A provisional 2009 estimate shows only 800 rhinos remain in Zimbabwe and 18 553 white and 1 570 black rhinos in South Africa. This is according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES, which maintains and monitors the ban on the trade of rhino horn.

According to South Africa’s National Environmental Affairs Minister, Buyelwa Sonjica, "8 White Rhino were poached in the Kruger National Park in January 2010, compared to 7 in January 2009", despite the deployment of high–tech equipment and 58 additional rangers to hot spots within the reserve. This brings the total ranger compliment to 350 to various ‘hot spots’ within Kruger. 19 Motor cycles, night vision equipment for the crew of two SANParks helicopters, an additional ultra light aircraft, as well as use of the S.A. National Defense Force to patrol the parks’ international borders have also been added to assist in tracking down perpetrators.

SANParks CEO David Mabunda said in a recent statement that between the 1st and 22nd of January 2010, at least 14 rhino were poached between Kruger (7) and North West Parks (7). This brings the total number of rhino slaughtered in the past 3 years to 93, with a total of only 48 arrests made during the same period.

Freimond relates that poachers recently killed 2 White Rhino just outside Johannesburg in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, a fact that he says shows that the crime is extending to even relatively built-up areas and becoming increasingly brazen. According to a reserve employee, this horrific deed was carried out by thugs who darted and anesthetised the rhino from the air using homemade darts. They then landed, removed the horns and fled, leaving the animals to cruelly bleed to death.

On the 2nd of February 2010, in a heavily guarded zoological park just outside of Livingstone in Zambia, poachers shot the last 2 remaining rhino in the country. One was killed and the other wounded and has since received treatment. According to Maureen Mwape, the Spokesperson for the Zambian Wildlife Authority, they would be investigating the shooting but it appears that even under "heavy guard", the dead female rhino’s horn was removed.

At the end of 2009, it was reported to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism Zimbabwe, that approximately 200 rhino had been poached during the last 3 years. It was estimated by experts that the surviving rhino population in Zimbabwe was around 300 White and 500 Black Rhino. If accurate, this implies that around 25% of the total population was lost during the past 3 years.

The Committee also heard from the Director of National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Dr. Morris Mutsambiwa, who stated that 86 suspected poachers had been arrested in 2009. Of the 45 reported cases of poaching received, 33 involved Zimbabweans either working alone or linked to international syndicates. The others were from South Africa, Zambia and China. Reports of government minister involvement have also been received by authorities but attempts to follow these up were thwarted due to the ‘disappearance’ of certain vital police dockets.

Freimond says that Wildlife Risk Solutions has recently received various reports from Zimbabwe stating that ‘war veterans’ have settled in the Chiredzi district and are using poison to poach rhino from a nearby reserve. A community spokesperson for Humani Estates, Mr. Nelson Maponga, said the perpetrators are leaving poisoned cabbages for the rhino at waterholes and then tracking them after consumption until they succumb to unconsciousness, at which stage they then remove the horns. These apparently get sold to South African dealers who have also flooded the Chiredzi area with firearms. Cattle belonging to local communities, as well as other species of wildlife, are using the same drinking holes and are consuming the cabbages, obviously dying as well. Freimond contends that this is an indication of the indiscriminate ruthlessness of these criminals.

As Freimond says, "New reports of poaching incidents are being received daily and if this scourge continues, what has taken superhuman effort by the likes of Dr. Ian Player and Clive Walker in resurrecting the rhino populations of Southern Africa will have been in vain as the populations of these magnificent creatures will be decimated beyond resurrection."

Contact Julian Freimond of Wildlife Risk Solutions on 031 562 1880 or via email at

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