The beefing up of security in other parks, coupled with the conservation area’s small size, may explain the onslaught of rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal.
This assessment came after Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park lost another six rhinos at the weekend.
Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo told The Mercury on Wednesday that of the 139 animals lost in the province so far this year, 115 were from the park.
“There are many reasons for this. One is that we have a very large number of rhinos and a relatively small area. It’s easy for poachers to spot the rhinos.”
They only needed to walk a short distance to see the animals, he said.
For safety reasons, he could not divulge the number of rhinos in the park.
He said that rangers had heard gunfire at 11pm on Sunday.
“They responded and went looking for the source. But they only discovered the carcasses on Monday morning. All the horns had been removed.”
The carcasses were found in the Mbuzane area, not too far from one another.
“No arrests have been made.”
He said that certain phases of the moon – when it was at its brightest, for example – also worsened the situation.
“But we are being attacked all the time, almost every day.”
When asked if the increased security measures around the Kruger National Park (KNP) had contributed, he said they might have been a factor.
“We have made more than 70 arrests this year, and many of these suspects come from other provinces, such as Mpumalanga. We suspect they moved their operations once security measures were strengthened (there).”
The Mercury’s sister paper, The Star, reported in March that a multimillion-rand wide area surveillance system had been introduced at Kruger.
That system is being used in conjunction with other initiatives, including an R8 million electronic security-gate access control system, which monitors the movement of vehicles and individuals entering and exiting the site.
Outraged South African Citizens against Rhino Poaching (Oscap) spokesperson Kim da Ribeira agreed that KNP’s measures might be having an impact on poaching, but added that there were a multitude of other reasons at play.
She said that the move to legalise the domestic trade of rhino horn was one of them.
The draft set of regulations – looking to formalise the practice after the setting aside of the 2009 moratorium – was opened for public comment in February, The Mercury reported earlier this year.
“We want to see a complete ditching of any plan to trade domestically.
“The Department of Environmental Affairs says that those who want to trade will have to get a permit from them, but this process can be open to a lot of corruption.”
Mntambo said while they were already doing their “level best” to crack down on poachers, they planned to strengthen their measures.
He said they would do this through the continued use of a helicopter to do air sweeps, and the recruitment of as many as 20 more field rangers.