Possible Moz-SA border fence to fight poaching

Government officials were meeting on Monday to discuss the re-erection of a 150km border fence between Mozambique and South Africa.

Environmental affairs spokesperson Mandla Mathebula said South African National Parks (SANParks) and the departments of environmental affairs and public works were discussing the logistics.

The fence is to be re-erected following a surge in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park.

“Their meeting is taking place,” he said. “I am unable to give further details.”

Mathebula said there was no threat to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which incorporated national parks in South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

“The transfrontier park will remain intact,” he said.

“This does not change the transfrontier park.

The first elephants were translocated from the Kruger to the Mozambican side of the transfrontier park in October 2001.

Former president Nelson Mandela joked at the time that the elephants were lobola for his Mozambican wife Graa Machel.


Extra rangers
The release of the elephants was supposed to signal the start of a fenceless mega park, incorporating the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, the Kruger, and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.

But a spike in rhino poaching has caused wildlife officials to call for the fence to be re-erected.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told the National Press Club in Pretoria on Sunday that an additional 150 rangers would be deployed to the Kruger this year to combat rhino poaching.

She said government would add them to the existing 500 rangers currently employed in the park.

Two poachers have been killed and another two have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching in the Kruger this year.

In 2011, 448 rhino were killed in South Africa.

Another 11 have been killed in the country this year so far.

One of the department’s plans included re-erecting the 150km stretch of fence along the border with Mozambique.

Molewa said 232 people had been arrested for rhino poaching.

SANparks chief executive David Mabunda, who was also at the briefing, said the fence, if approved, would cost an estimated R250-million to build.

‘Bad state of repair’
“We still have a fence or what used to be a fence. That part of the fence is in a bad state of repair.”

The proposed fence would be electrified but would not be lethal, and serve more as an early warning system, Mabunda said.

Most of those caught poaching were Mozambican nationals with some South Africans involved. Very few Zimbabweans were involved in poaching in the Kruger.

Mozambicans living across the border of the park were extremely poor and could therefore be enticed by organised crime.

“We need an appropriate organised response,” he said.

South Africa has around 22 000 rhino, which is about 80% of the world’s rhino population.

The country’s rhino population, 22% of which is in private hands, is growing.

However, if poaching levels continued to climb, from 2015 South Africa could see a fall in its rhino population, Mabunda warned.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Africa’s rhino population was being exterminated at the rate of about 8 000 animals a year.

Rhino horn rhino is valued for dagger handles in Yemen, while in China and Vietnam it is prized in traditional medicine to treat fevers.

SANparks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said on Monday that most of the rhino poaching was being done in the south of the park near camps such as Lower Sabie and Pretoriuskop.

The fence, he said, was likely to cover only certain areas.

Further details would be released once the meeting on Monday had been concluded.



20 August 2011: Rhino’s horn hacked off – while still alive!

Sometime during the early morning of 20 August 2011, two groups of rhino poachers attacked three of the herd of six resident rhinos, on the 7500 hectare Aquila Private Game Reserve, situated just two hours from Cape Town. According to reports, they gained access initially by vehicle through neighbouring farms on the N1 national road, then walked several kilometers at night through the Karoo vegetation.

Within the last year, Aquila’s anti poaching team has deterred two attempted rhino poaching attempts. In November 2010, a low flying helicopter made two passes across the reserve before being deterred. Since then the reserve has spared no expense to protect its rhinos. “We believe that our anti poaching team must have surprised the poachers, as the first rhino we found, with its front horn sawn off with a chain saw and they left having only had time to get half way through the second horn before retreating,” says owner Searl Derman.

“They would not have left without the second horn, with a street value of R1m, if it was not for our anti poaching team. This rhino lost a lot of blood but managed to stumble over 150 metres and is fighting for his life. The loss of blood and position it was lying in while drugged could have caused massive muscle and organ damage which could be fatal.”

This rhino was the first rhino reintroduced to Aquila and to the Western Cape in over 250 years since shot out by hunters.

Another young female was found with a dart in her shoulder area, barely alive. Derman raced to the closest vet in Paarl and a clinic in Worcester to get the antidote and schedule 6 and 7 drugs that were needed to save her. These drugs can only be kept by licensed veterinary surgeons.

“We are pleased to say that as of this morning, 9am, she has recovered well and is standing over her father to protect him,” says Derman. “After finding the second rhino, we sent all rangers and security staff in game vehicles, on quad bikes and horseback to search for the one rhino that had not been accounted for.”

Two helicopters and a light aircraft from Cape Town were brought in to search Aquila’s 7500 hectare conservancy. The rhino was spotted from the air, but on landing, the searchers discovered a blood bath. The rhino’s face had literally been hacked off with pangas and machetes, proving that there were two active teams attacking the Aquila rhinos, one using a chain saw, the other using pangas and machetes to dehorn the rhino.

According to Derman, rhino poaches are well equipped, heavily armed with automatic weapons, night and thermal vision equipment and well trained. Their “modus operandi” is normally to fly at night with thermal vision. They can spot a rhino through bushes and mist over four miles away, they GPS the location of the rhino and drop their poaching teams off several kilometers away to walk in and normally dart the baby first so that the mother and father stay to protect it and don’t run away.

Aquila Private Game Reserve is offering R100 000.00 reward for information leading to an arrest and prosecution of these poachers. Informants’ details will be kept confidential and we can be contacted on searl@aquilasafari.com.

Original post: Wilderness Foundation South Africa