By Paul Burkhardt
As rhino numbers stabilise.
South Africa’s rhino population has stabilised as it increases measures, including relocating the animals from the Kruger National Park, to protect the species from the poaching trade.
“The latest rhino population survey, in 2013, conducted by SANParks, showed that between 8 400 and 9 600 white rhinos are presently living in Kruger National Park,” Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa told reporters in Pretoria today. The South African cabinet was briefed on the census on August 6 and approved measures recommended to protect the rhino population.
Poaching has surged in South African game reserves and beyond as demand for the horn climbs in Asian nations including China and Vietnam because of its perceived medicinal value. New interventions include steps to disrupt crime syndicates, Molewa said, with the number of poachers arrested “considerably” higher this year than in 2013. Poachers killed 370 rhinos in the park so far this year, SANParks said on July 22.
Last month, a poacher was sentenced in a court northeast of Johannesburg to 77 years in jail for killing three rhino calves in 2011. Six people were arrested in an operation at Kruger park, South African National Parks, which runs the reserve, said in a statement yesterday.
“Poaching, natural deaths and the translocation of rhino from the Kruger National Park presently match that of rhino births,” Molewa said. “South Africa also recognizes international opportunities for establishing rhino strongholds in neighboring countries.”
There is no final decision on trading of rhino horn after the government last year authorized her department to explore the possibility, Molewa said. “The Cabinet has established an inter-ministerial committee and a panel of experts,” she said.