Last Wednesday spelt a very sad day for Botswana when it emerged a rhino was killed in the Okavango Delta. News of the slaying came hot on the heels of a prior poaching incident on September 27 in the core rhino range in the Okavango Delta.
The latest poaching incident brings to nine the number of rhinoceros poached from April 1 to date, a worryingly unprecedented number. The spike in the poaching of rhinos is deeply worrying in a country that has over the last few years received rhinos in an effort to safeguard and revive its dwindling numbers.
“Botswana does not have many wild rhinos, our population is relatively small,” said Dr. Mmadi Reuben, Department of Wildlife and National Parks Rhino Coordinator in Botswana.
“We have been losing about a rhino a month to poaching, losing two in one week is unacceptable. If the poaching continues at this rate there will be no rhinos in Botswana in a year or two, especially the black rhino, a ‘critically endangered species,” the ministry said Wednesday.
This spells a huge blow for the country with a strict and strong anti-poaching policy, to which the Government has committed immense resources. The anti-poaching forces have now flagged and prioritised the protection of rhinos and location of the poaching gang. Two poachers have been killed during anti-poaching operations recently.
However, the poachers are exploiting the Okavango being an expansive area with difficult wetland terrain. Engaging the communities in the Okavango Delta as well as the private sector and NGOs to increase awareness will also be crucial in the fight against wildlife crime.
Rhino poaching has been on the increase in the region, with South Africa possibly being the worst hit. Namibia also recently recorded the poaching of rhinos as well. It appears rhino poachers have now turned their attention to Botswana.
The Government of Botswana stressed in a statement issued on Wednesday that it will continue to improve efforts, and is committed to mobilising more resources to clamp down on poaching. The statement further urged the public and affected communities, in particular, to report any suspicious activity to the nearest Department of Wildlife or Botswana Police office.
Botswana Raises Alarm Over Unprecedented Surge in Rhino Poaching
Botswana raised the alarm over a “deeply worrying” surge in rhinoceros poaching after two of the animals were killed in one week, bringing the total number of rhino deaths to nine since April.
While the size of the southern African nation’s wild rhino population is small compared to some of its neighbours, the government has been praised for the success of its conservation policies and has received rhinos from other countries to protect
Conservationists criticised the government earlier this year after it withdrew heavy weapons from its anti-poaching units and lifted a ban on wildlife hunting, a decision that was largely motivated by the threat to farmers posed by Botswana’s large elephant population. While Botswana plans on earning a higher income from trophy hunting, it won’t allow the killing of rhinos.
Anti-poaching forces have now made the protection of rhinos their highest priority, with two poachers having lost their lives during operations recently, the ministry said. Black rhinos are largely kept in private sanctuaries and their numbers are not publicly known. Neighbouring South Africa, which is home to almost all of the world’s rhinos, said in February it recorded a 25% plunge in rhino deaths last year. The animals are targeted for their horns, which are believed in Asia to help cure cancer and boost male virility.
Source: BWGovernment via FB, bloomberg.com