Former Kruger National Park director Dr Salomon Joubert says the authorities will not win the war against rhino poaching.
Speaking during the launch of his book, Kruger National Park: A History, in Mbombela (Nelspruit), he said the number of rhinos being poached was surpassing the number being born annually.
“The white rhino population has historically enjoyed a 5-8 percent increase annually, but the mortality rate is now surpassing this, placing the population in very real danger,” said Joubert, who lived in the park for 40 years and served as director from 1986 to 1994.
“Despite the huge outcry against it, rhino poaching will never stop. This is a huge problem, and I suspect that the number of issues that need to be addressed are far too much for the practice to be stamped out completely.”
According to the latest figures released by the department of environmental affairs, 249 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year. Some experts predict this number could reach close to 1 000 by the end of the year.
In 2010, a total of 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa, 405 in 2011, and 633 last year.
It is believed that the exponential rise in rhino poaching has been fuelled by rocketing demand in Asia and the emergence of highly organised crime syndicates operating in South Africa and Mozambique.
Joubert said corruption within the government was also a major factor.
“People are corruptible. Not only do the financial rewards appeal to the desperate souls who are recruited to do the dirty work, but also to people throughout the ranks. This includes officials within Kruger National Park and those in government, and is symptomatic of a large management problem,” he said.
“Discipline and passion for conservation are waning.”
Joubert said South Africa was not doing enough to help address the problem in Mozambique. “South Africa is not intervening. At the moment we do not have control over the assets that are our rhinos. So until we have organised ourselves and secured our assets, poaching will continue.”
It has also been reported that poachers have wiped out the entire rhino population on the Mozambican side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The transfrontier park includes Kruger, Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.
During a recent media tour, Kruger Park’s head of conservation, Dr Freek Venter, said Mozambican authorities had different laws regarding rhino poaching and that the stiff sentences given to poachers in South Africa were not applicable in Mozambique.
“The Mozambican authorities are not coming to the party. They don’t take the issue as seriously as we do and they do not have nearly enough resources to do anything about it,” said Venter. – African Eye News Service