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Sat Nov 22 04:51:16 SAST 2014

Rhino plan under wraps

Sipho Masombuka | 23 July, 2014 00:01
POINTED QUESTION: A wildlife mural on the wall of a backpackers' lodge off Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg, close to the premises of veterinarian Peter Baker, who has a sign outside his practice asking SANParks what it is doing to protect rhinos from poaching
Image by: ALON SKUY

South African National Parks has no plan to relocate rhinos from the Kruger National Park to a secret location.

SANParks was at pains yesterday to play down earlier reports that it was planning to sell and relocate some of its rhinos to save them from poachers.

"There is no board-approved plan, there has never been one. It is misleading to suggest that there is one," SANParks chairman Kuseni Dlamini said.

"What the board does as part of its normal activities and duties is to always consider different scenarios and options of managing the issues that we deal with in the best possible way and we are continuously exploring a lot of scenarios."

Reports suggested that the board was planning to relocate 250 of the estimated 500 rhinos in Kruger National Park and to sell the remaining 250.

Dlamini would not say if such a proposal or recommendation was ever on the table but the possibility of relocation had not been ruled out.

He said this was not the only option and that a holistic and comprehensive approach needed to be adopted on poaching.

Asked if legalising the sale of rhino horn was one of the options, Dlamini said that question could only be answered by the Minister of Environmental Affairs.

He said many strategies were being discussed and that the options under consideration would be made public after an executive strategy meeting to be held tomorrow.

"Imagine if we were not doing what we are doing? We need to be open-minded in considering whatever options we have," he said.

Dlamini said the rhino census conducted in 2010 put the number of rhinos nationally at between 8500 and 12000.

Kruger National Park has lost 379 rhinos to poachers so far this year.

A new census is under way to determine the number of rhinos still alive in the country.

Phone in to stop poaching

At the corner of Jellicoe and Jan Smuts avenues, in Rosebank, Johannesburg, is a billboard flashing the number of rhinos poached this year.

In the 10 days the billboard has been up, outside vet Peter Baker's premises, the number of rhinos poached was shown to have increased from 554 to 565. That was yesterday.

The death toll is followed by a simple question: "SANParks, what are you doing?"

"I put the sign up to shock people," said Baker, who has asked the Department of Environmental Affairs to establish a national call centre to which poaching could be reported.

The vet says he has registered a toll-free hotline number - 0800-rhinos - and has secured a software deal for a call centre to be set up.

"We need a bank of people dedicated to putting a caller in touch with a reaction unit such as the police or park rangers," said Baker.

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