Poaching of rhinoceroses in South Africa’s national parks is a growing problem, the severity of which the South African government never anticipated would escalate to this level. With an extremely high value internationally, the collection and trade of rhinoceros horns has become a source of income for many people in Mozambique and South Africa, countries with widespread unemployment and poverty.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic with two guests, Mr. Marius Roos, a Colonel in the South African Army Reserve Force and managing director of Pathfinder Corporation, a South African private security firm that works on counter-poaching efforts; and Mr. Scott Williams, a former U.S. military officer and director of the nonprofit, Reserve Protection Agency. They discussed in detail the magnitude of the problem, and the difficulties South Africa is facing while trying to find a solution to it.
Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest national park covers 20,000 square kilometers and is home to 65 percent of the world’s rhinoceros population. This high concentration of rhinoceroses in one area along the border of South Africa and Mozambique attracts many poachers, who killed as many as 688 rhinoceroses in the last year alone. With a ranger corps of around 400, about a quarter of the number required to adequately maintain a park of this size, surveillance of the park and the animals is difficult. Furthermore, as poachers begin using more sophisticated weapons, it is becoming even more difficult for rangers, who do not have the training and technology to fight these poachers, to protect the animals.
Mr. Roos and Mr. Williams discussed the importance of cooperation locally and internationally when finding a solution to the problem of poaching. They have worked closely with the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, as well as with several NGOs, and are hoping not only to raise funds for the cause but also to share information and strategies, as well as to demonstrate that effective plans have been made to deal with the issue. Although there are technologies for tracking and communication that, if used, would help rangers halt the killing of rhinoceroses, Roos and Williams said they have found that it is of greater significance to tackle the causes of the issue rather than the symptoms. It is most important, they said, to create and maintain the necessary framework to stop current and prevent future poaching of rhinoceroses. More....