South African National Parks said it has completed the first phase of moving rhinos in the Kruger National Park to safe areas after deaths from poaching surged to a record.
SANParks, as the state parks organization is known, said it moved 29 rhinos to safer areas within the park and to other nature reserves during October and November. Seventeen have been fitted with tracking devices.
“It is early days but our initial reports are that the rhino translocated within the Kruger are safe and have settled well,” said Kuseni Dlamini, chairman of the SANParks board, in an e-mailed statement Thursday. “As one element among others in our multi-faceted strategy to combat rhino poaching, we are greatly encouraged by the initial outcomes.”
South Africa, home to most of the world’s rhinos, is struggling to protect the animals from poachers. So far this year at least 1,020 rhinos have been killed in the country, most of those in the Kruger, a reserve the size of Israel, compared with a record 1,004 in all of last year.
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The Kruger borders Mozambique, where many of the poachers come from, and some of the rhinos are being moved from border areas to safer zones within the park.
SANParks also plans to sell rhinos to private landowners who meet security and habitat requirements. A total of 22 bids have been received and are under a technical evaluation phase, with an outcome “expected in the near future,” according to the statement.
The sale is part of an overall strategy “to provide a basis for securing the protection and growth of the rhino meta- population in southern Africa,” according to SANParks.
A company associated with billionaire Christoffel Wiese is among those that were refunded 14 million rand ($1.3 million) in deposits after an earlier contract to buy rhinos from SANParks was deemed unauthorized and canceled.