SA translocates endangered rhinos to Bots
Gaborone – South Africa has translocated six white rhinos to Botswana following years of negotiation and planning between the two countries.
The six rhinos made their way across South Africa to a hidden location in Botswana last month, in what is the world's first private game reserve rhino donation.
The translocation was facilitated through &Beyond's Phinda private game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.
Poaching in South Africa is on a steady increase, with reports indicating that the country lost 668 white rhinos to illegal poaching in 2012, and in the first 45 days of 2013 an additional 96 were slaughtered.
“Rhinos Under Threat”, a UNTV documentary broadcast in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last year, stated that rhino horn now fetches double the price of gold and exceeds the price of the narcotic drug, cocaine.
Rhino horn finds ready markets in countries such as Vietnam, where it is believed to have medicinal qualities.
Botswana game scouts have undergone intensive tracking and monitoring training at Beyond Phinda where they learnt about white rhino behaviours.
Speaking at an event to officially receive the rhinos, Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, said the illegal trade in rhino horns is an international problem, which requires the co-operation of countries where rhino horns are destined if the problem is to be eradicated.
Minister Khama said the country would continue to engage its neighbours and those further beyond to find lasting solutions to rhino poaching.
“It is anticipated that the rhinos that we are releasing into the wild today will contribute in no small way to boosting our small but growing white rhino population,” he said.
Minister Khama revealed that the rhino donation was a culmination of tireless efforts by Beyond Phinda to contribute to Botswana’s efforts of building the white rhino population in the Okavango delta.
&Beyond, a luxury experiential travel company, has contributed significantly to the protection of rhinos over the past 22 years.
“Their request was remarkable in that it was not for the purpose of stocking a game ranch or private game reserve. In 2011, &Beyond informed the Botswana government of their desire to bring white rhino into the country.
“Upon the release of the animals, government will continue to work together with them to monitor how the rhinos adapt to their new environment and to ensure their security,” said Khama.
Minister Khama also revealed that the white rhino became virtually extinct in Botswana by the end of the 19th century; a re-introduction programme was initiated in 1967, 1974 and 1980.
“Unfortunately, a new wave of poaching drove the species back to the brink of extinction again in the 1980s. The government was then forced to relocate the few white rhinos left to the safety of Khama Rhino Sanctuary,” he said.
&Beyond CEO, Joss Kent, said the translocation aimed to preserve Africa’s dwindling rhino populations for future generations to enjoy.
“In 2012 alone, South Africa lost a devastating 668 rhino to illegal poaching, which is a 49 percent increase from the previous year’s figure of 448.
“Botswana has an excellent security system in place to protect these endangered animals and will be a safe haven for the six relocated rhino,” he stated.
&Beyond conservation manager, Les Carlisle, said the company chose to relocate the rhinos to Okavango delta because the area has proven to be a successful rhino relocation habitat and Botswana has a strong security and monitoring framework in place whereby the military helped to protect the species.
“It is the ideal opportunity for us to move our eggs out of one basket,” said Carlisle.