Monday, April 22, 2024

Two rhinos die during ‘evacuation’

Two rhinos have died while being relocated from the Okavango Delta in an exercise meant to save them from being killed by poachers, the government has confirmed.

Addressing questions in Parliament last week on behalf of Minister of Wildlife, Member of Parliament Mabuse Pule confirmed the deaths saying the rhinos died from injuries sustained during their capture.

“It is important though to set the record straight that the mortality were not due to mishandling as the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) have professionals who have carried out this exercise many times without a problem,” said Pule.

Answering questions from Serowe South legislator Lesedi Leepetswe, Pule said some rhinos were translocated from the Okavango Delta into safer locations although he would disclose the area.

“I request this Honourable House to permit me to not divulge locations to where these rhino were translocated, as that would only increase the very risk of poaching that we are trying to address. Similarly, to avoid raising the risk profile of the translocated rhinos, I request this Honourable House to permit me to not divulge the number of translocated animals,” he said.

Botswana experienced a significant increase in incidences of rhino poaching since 2018 which killings the Ministry attributed to a number of factors “including an increased demand for rhino horn in the international market hence poachers looked for places where rhinos are around and also a displacement of international criminal syndicates from other Southern African states.” Pule said a total of 76 rhinos have been lost to natural causes in the past five years. “The country lost 5 in 2018, 18 rhinos in 2019, 22 in 2020, 15 in 2021 and 16 in 2022 rhinos. Most of these mortalities are from old age, disease and/or injuries sustained during rhino fights, mostly amongst males fighting for breeding territories.”

Botswana government has conceded defeat in their continued fight against unrelenting rhino poachers who have killed at least 150 in the past five years.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) took a decision to relocate the animals to an unspecified location in the North West District of Botswana to protect them from poachers.

Speaking to Sunday Standard in 2021 DWNP Director Dr. Kabelo Senyatso confirmed the relocation but would also not share specific information over ‘security’ concerns.

“I cannot divulge the site (relocation site). An announcement will be made at the appropriate time,” he said at the time.

As part of their efforts to deter poaching the Botswana government had decided to dehorn the rhinos but the exercise did little (if anything) to stop the onslaught as poachers reportedly began killing dehorned animals out of frustration.

Some poachers have reportedly been happy to collect the stubs left after dehorning in a mission to at least salvage something from the animals. They were also reported to be ruthlessly slaughtering calves without much horn.

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