The Washington Post has published an excellent article on the different measures and equipment being used to combat rhino poaching in South Africa, but also noting that poachers are also learning and that the number of rhinos poached has increased again this year. Click here to read the article. Smart phones, drones, predictive mathematical modelling, negative advertising, dyes and nausea inducing chemicals is all in part of it. Even legalization of trade is an alternative under consideration. Even so, as cvheerden has pointed out, this week’s news reported the “Last rhinos in Mozambique killed by poachers” including Mozambique game rangers in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which is the park shared with South Africa and Zimbabwe. Kruger Park is South Africa’s portion of the Transfrontier Park. Further information about Mozambique and Limpopo Park poaching is available here.
Rhinos. Will rhinos be gone from Kruger Park by 2020?. This IOL News Jan. 6 article by Simon Bloch and Ivor Powell reviews a journal publication by Dr Sam Ferreira, large mammal ecologist for SANParks at Kruger National Park. From previous posts you know that I am aware of the rhino poaching problem in southern Africa, more than 600 last year. Poaching rates have increased, 48% higher in Kruger Park in 2012 than 2011. The Western Black Rhinocerus subspecies, officially declared in 2011 to be extinct. The last known specimen of the Asian rhinocerus, killed in Viet Nam in 2010. Only 4 rhinos may still survive in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, alleged to be collateral damage from Chinese mining concessions and the influx of Asian immigrants in that country. Read about the poaching links to “The Crocodile” Emmerson Mnangagwa also referred to as “The Butcher of Matabeleland”. The architect of Zimbabwe’s state security and creator of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Office – possible in line for president after Robert Mugabe. I stumbled across this article accidentally when I was looking for an update about pollution related Kruger Park crocodile deaths in 2010 and 2011 and thinking of anthrax killing off hippos – posts for another day. I post this here, hoping that the article will not be lost in the tsunami of daily news and that the data will not remain buried in scientific journals.
Here’s some Bruce Cockburn music to go with this post. I recalled a comment made by a guide during our “walk with the lions” in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. He mentioned an amazing rate of decline in recent years in the lion population. As a biologist, my first thought was, “They’re going extinct.” Since our return from Africa, I’ve seen news articles about rhinos and crocs, but not lions. So I went looking for more. Lion population estimates presently vary from 20,000 to 30,000 world wide, 10% of the African lion population 100 years ago. Some sources quote a 90% decline in only the last 30 years. The best web site I’ve found is a map at National Geographic that shows population changes across time. Additional information is also available from National Geographic at this site. The Panthera cat conservation site indicates that there are only 7 countries in Africa that are believed to have more than 1000 lions. From a biologist’s point of view the problem is 2 fold, not only are the population estimates extremely low, but the geographic expanse remains relatively large which results in isolated communities and reduced opportunity for out breeding. Here’s a Youtube video describing the conflict between farmers, urbanization and lions in Kenya.