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Botswana rhinos face total wipe-out as poachers run amok

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Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – Rhino poaching has become rampant in Botswana as six endangered black and white rhinos were killed by poachers in the Okavango Delta in a short period of less than two months between October and November.

According to the latest information reaching The Southern Times, the Southern African nation poaching epidemic has escalated as the latest figures have surged from nine in April to 15 rhinos killed this year.

This was confirmed by the rhino coordinator at the Department of Wildlife, Dr Mmadi Reuben. “Since the last time we issued a statement in October about the increasing number of rhinos killed by suspected poachers, we have recorded at least six incidents of rhino poaching which brings the number of rhinos killed since April from nine to 15,” he said.

He said they were monitoring rhino movements through darting and tagging rhinos.

“If we were not monitoring their movements, we would not have known about these incidents,” he said.

He said going forward, there was a need to adopt a solution that was multifaceted.

Reuben said there was a need to sensitise communities living along the delta so that they could report suspicious people in their localities to law enforcement agencies.

“We also have to intensify monitoring of these animals so that they are all accounted for,” he said. He said in the past, Botswana did not have large numbers of rhinos and following relocation of rhinos from her neighbours, this could have triggered a surge in poaching of the endangered species.

“The private partnership that we have also needs to be intensified. The value these animals have in diversifying the economy cannot be underestimated. Those who have these species should ensure that they are protected and not decimated,” he said.

Reports indicate that poaching is escalating in the region, driven by demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, and authorities are overwhelmed.

Botswana is home to just under 400 rhinos, according to Rhino Conservation Botswana, most of which roam the grassy plains of the northern Okavango Delta.

In collaboration with government, Rhinos Without Borders and Wilderness Safaris, Rhino Conservation Botswana recently completed a large operation to dart and tag previously untagged wild rhinos in the Okavango Delta.

The team darted rhinos and fitted each rhino with a tracking device, taking body measurements and a DNA sample, as well as clipping ear notches onto the rhinos ears which serve as easy to identify unique identification marks.

Last month, the Ministry of Tourism raised alarm that a rhino was killed on 2 October, following a recorded poaching incident on 27 September in the core rhino range in the Okavango Delta.

 According to a statement issued by the ministry, the poaching incident at the time brought the number of rhinoceros poached this financial year alone from 1 April 2019 up to now to nine, an unprecedented number.

 The ministry expressed concern that the increased poaching of rhinos was deeply worrying in a country that has over the last few years received rhinos in an effort to safeguard and revive rhino populations.

“Botswana does not have many wild rhinos, our population is relatively small,” said Reuben at the time.

 “We have been losing about a rhino a month to poaching; losing two in one week is unacceptable. If the poaching continues at this rate there will be no rhinos in Botswana in a year or two, especially the black rhino, a critically endangered species.”

 The ministry said this would be a huge loss for the country with a strict and strong anti-poaching policy, which the government had committed immense resources.