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South African park considers moving rhinos to stop poachers

July 22, 2014 - 6:16am

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa, home to 80 percent of the world’s rhinos, is considering moving some of the animals out of Kruger National Park, its biggest game reserve, to keep poachers at bay.

“The board is considering moving them to other parks,” Gert Dry, a board member for SANParks, which runs Kruger, said in a telephone interview Monday. “The numbers and final plans have not been concluded.”

Kruger, a wildlife reserve the size of Israel, has about 700 security guards protecting 8,500 to 12,000 rhinos, SANParks said in an emailed response to questions. Poachers have killed 351 rhinos in Kruger this year to July 10, equivalent to almost two a day, according to the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs. The number of rhinos poached across South Africa so far this year has risen to 558 compared with 1,004 during all of last year and six in 2000.

The country’s rhino population of about 20,000 will start to decline in 2016 if present rates of poaching continue, according to the government. Globally, the population is “critically endangered,” according to the London-based Save the Rhino conservation group.

Rhinos are killed for their horns, the value of which has surged in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam where buyers seek them for perceived medicinal purposes. As the price in Asia has approached as much as $60,000 a pound, poachers have slaughtered more rhinos to meet demand.

“I don’t think putting up fences and having more guards alone will be able to ultimately safeguard the rhino,” Dry said. “There must be an international solution to rhino poaching.”

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