CAPE TOWN, March 14 (Xinhua) — A three-year joint initiative worth 255 million rand (about 23.7 million U.S. dollars) has been set up to combat rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, authorities announced on Friday.
The project will also test anti-poaching tactics that can be applied in other regions of Africa, where poaching can be a source of funding for armed groups, the South African National Parks (SANParks) said.
The initiative was jointly launched by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation (HGBF), a private foundation in the United States; the Nature Conservation Trust (NCT), a South African public benefit organization (PBO); and SANParks.
The effort in KNP, one of Africa’s largest game reserves in northeastern South Africa, will create an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ), using sophisticated detection and tracking equipment and infrastructure on the ground and in the air; elite canine units and highly-trained ranger teams; and improved intelligence gathering and observation and surveillance systems.
This came after the total number of rhinos poached in South Africa since the beginning of 2014 has increased to 172, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in its latest update on poaching statistics on Friday.
The KNP remains hardest hit by rhino poaching, having lost 113 rhinos so far this year. A total of 18 rhinos have been poached for their horn in Limpopo Province, 17 in North West and 11 in KwaZulu-Natal.
The KNP is currently home to over 40 percent of the world’s remaining 22,000 rhinos, the largest single population of rhinos in the world.
Since January 2010, 1,383 rhinos have been poached in the KNP, part of a larger assault that resulted in 2,368 rhinos poached in South Africa over the past few years. In some areas of Africa, entire populations of rhino have been eliminated.
The KNP’s poaching problem is fueled mainly by illicit criminal networks in Mozambique, South Africa, and East Asia, but evidence suggests that armed groups elsewhere in Africa derive significant funding from poaching activities.
The KNP’s IPZ will also serve as a testing ground to inform targeted efforts to combat poaching in these other African regions.
“The scale, complexity, and strategic value of this initiative is truly unprecedented for SANParks, and we believe will be transformative in our ongoing efforts to address poaching and the decimation of the rhino population in Kruger National Park,” said SANParks CEO David Mabunda.
“More importantly, the lessons we hope to learn and share across SANParks and the continent will, we believe, develop new and more effective ways to combat illicit wildlife trade, particularly where it is financing armed groups,” he said.