Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

Alan looks at one of the most heinous of all wildlife crimes – poaching. Once thought under control there has in recent times been a terrifying spike. Particularly in Kruger National Park.

It sickens me to the core. It really does. I can think of few things that turn my stomach than the bloody mess of a de-horned rhino. I’ve never seen one – not in real life. But I have seen the pictures. And heard the stories. Even writing this is making my blood boil.

Rhinoceros and elephants are both targeted in KrugerNational Park in particular – especially rhino. Demand from markets in Asia provides the fuel: the resources and the motivation. The poachers are well armed and well supplied. So, is it a real problem?

The Stats
By December 2013, 946 rhinos had been killed for their horn in South Africa that year; of these 573 came from Kruger National Park. In August a firefight between rangers and poachers in Kruger left three poachers dead. Rangers had tracked a group of six heavily-armed poachers before gunfire broke out. These guys mean business.

To give an idea of the alarming increase in poaching... in 2003, only 22 rhinos were poached in South Africa. So the raging rhino poaching war has a frontline.

Rangers Implicated
Tragically, some rangers in Kruger have been implicated. There has been collusion by a very small number of rangers and the poachers. How sad. The people charged with their protection responsible for their death. I would stress though that this is not representative of most rangers. It’s a small minority. No doubt blinded by the opportunities of earning serious cash. Rather than be satisfied with their meagre salary. But that’s another blog...

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park
Kruger is officially part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which combines Kruger with Limpopo in Mozambique and should eventually include conservation areas in Zimbabwe too. It has been coined the world’s greatest animal kingdom – hyperbole? Probably. However what is indisputable is that this magnificent stretch of wilderness is home to 60% of the world’s remaining rhino population.

Kruger has been established for over 100 years and is well funded – the South African government even called in the South African Defence Force to help protect the wildlife. Limpopo in Mozambique? Under-resourced and under-capacitated. Its anti-poaching unit does battle with poaching syndicates that have unlimited resources.

The future? Well, it’s difficult to see a end in sight while the demand still exists. A single rhino horn can fetch up to $100.000 in Asia (but it can be even more), so education remains key. Rhino horn is believed to be an aphrodisiac and punters will pay. And while they will, and do, so one of Africa’s most majestic creatures continues to fall...

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