Wildlife animals in the Southern region of Africa are becoming more vulnerable to poachers since the imposed restriction of movement and isolation to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
The humid period between May and September usually creates a busy presence of animal patrol teams, enforcement officers, and global tourists which pose a challenge for poachers, due to reports of suspicious activities.
However, the poachers are capitalizing on the scarcity of people in the animal parks to pursue their illegal activities.
Nico Jacobs, owner of a South African emergency service for rhinoceroses called Rhino 911 claims to have evidence of 7 dead rhinos. On March 25 2020, he was called to rescue a 2 month-old white rhino calf whose mother had been killed by poachers.
Just 24 hours after, another rescue mission came up for two black rhinos whose horns had been hacked off by poachers. Unfortunately, when he got a lead on their locations, the animals were already dead.
According to the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries 594 rhinos were poached last year. The ministry believes it is tangible progress compared to the previous year of 769 rhinos killing.
Meanwhile, one of South Africa’s neighboring countries to the north, Botswana has recorded the death of at least six rhinos since the country imposed border closure to stop the spread of Covid-19, Rhino Conservation Botswana, a nonprofit organization reports.
Additionally, Botswana’s military has taken responsibility for the death of five suspected poachers in the space of just four days during anti-poaching operations last month at Okavango Delta.
Poaching activities in this region are largely carried out for the illegal trade of rhino skins and tusks to meet surging demands in Asian countries, mostly China. where a kilo of tusk sells for $60,000.
Even more, animal conservationists fear that the lockdown might trigger financially vulnerable people to start killing these wild animals for bushmeat.
Due to little or no revenue from tourism at the moment, financing voluntary anti-poaching organizations is becoming more difficult. Even more frustrating is that some conservationists can’t be present in the countries due to emergency visa restrictions.
According to a K4D journal, a total of 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa generate an estimated $142 million in entrance fees (gate fee) yearly, for protected areas, with a potential of yearly increase.
On a positive note, TimesNowDigital reported that a pack of K9 anti-poaching dogs trained by Southern African Wildlife College in Greater Kruger National Park have saved 45 rhinos from being killed since 2018 in South Africa.
Although dog training for special missions like poaching might be capital intensive, its importance and value can’t be underestimated in times of restricted movement and limited human capital.
South Africa accounts for 93 percent of Africa’s estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 39 percent of the remaining 5,000 are critically endangered black rhinos.