Cape Town - Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park – a key element in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, or peace park – has been stripped of all its 300-odd rhinos by poachers, with the last remaining 15 animals believed to have been killed last month.
Many of the rangers in this national park, which adjoins the Kruger National Park, appear to have been involved in the massacre, according to local Mozambican media reports that were picked up by other news media sources.
One of these reports – quoted in the Rhino War News Bulletin run by Tim Condon, a former KwaZulu-Natal game ranger now based in Canada – states:
“Antonio Abacar, the administrator of Limpopo National Park, told local media that 30 rangers are to be taken to court soon after their cases are ready. There used to be 300 rhinos in the conservation area bordering South Africa. He said the last 15 rhinos were killed last month.”
The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which straddles the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, was signed to acclaim by the heads of these three states on December 9, 2002.
It includes some of the best established wildlife areas in southern Africa, including Kruger and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, and forms a huge conservation area of 35 000km2 – about the size of the Netherlands – that is supposed to be managed as an integrated unit across the three international boundaries.
A second phase of this ambitious project, which is due to include Mozambique’s Banhine and Zinave national parks, will make the park almost 100 000km2 in extent, making it “the world’s greatest animal kingdom”, according to the Peace Parks Foundation.
In 2006 the Giriyondo Access Facility between the Kruger and Limpopo national parks was opened. Some 5 000 animals were translocated from Kruger to Limpopo National Park, and about 50km of fence was dropped to encouraged more movement.
But because of what is described in Condon’s Bulletin as the “rhino apocalypse”, South Africa is in the process of re-erecting the fence as part of its anti-poaching efforts.
The news from Mozambique coincides with the disclosure by the national Department of Environmental Affairs that the number of rhino poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year has jumped to 249.
The Kruger National Park remains hardest hit, with a jump in the number of animals killed from 167 to 180 in the last week. Rhinos have also been poached in four other provinces: 21 in North West, 18 in KwaZulu-Natal, 17 in Limpopo and 13 in Mpumalanga. Last year, at least 668 rhinos were killed for their horns.
The number of alleged poachers arrested countrywide has increased to 78, with two alleged couriers arrested in KwaZulu-Natal in the past week. This brings to five the number of alleged middlemen arrested so far this year.
A total of 73 people are facing poaching-related charges and some additional charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.