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The Character of Kruger Threatened
11 May 2011
[In Afrikaans]

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The building of two conference hotels with 120 rooms, the over population of elephants and rhino poaching are factors which may irreversibly change the character of the Kruger National Park.

This reserve, comprising 10 680 km² and housing 147 mammal and 450 bird species, comparess unfavourably with the glamour of Botswana or the Zambezi Valley, but then it does not suffer from the tourist floods the Maasai Mara or Tanzania's Ngorongoro crater are plagued by.

The Kruger conference hotels are surrounded by allegations of politicians accepting bribes and of the advice of environmental conservationists being ignored. However, the hotels will officially open their doors in 2013.

Regarding the elephants, Kruger presently harbours 15 000 while scientists reckon there should be no more than 7 500. Recent efforts to move some of the elephants to Mozambique were doomed to failure.

"The elephants are usually back in Kruger before the trucks that took them out to Mozambique have returned," said Andre Kotze, who runs Elephant Whispers, a training and rehabilitation centre near the Sabi Sands private reserve.

The last meaningful culling of elephants was in 1994. Despite pressure from wildlife management lobbyists, neither the South African government nor national parks officials can bring themselves to order the destruction of significant herds of elephants.

Conservationist steer clear of the culling solution. They believe that elephants can be put to better use in landmine-clearing operations � they are apparently far more efficient than dogs at sniffing out buried explosives � and on anti-poaching patrols.

As for rhinos, there are two bits of encouraging news. Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) and the The WILD Foundation (WILD) announced in the United States that they are cooperating to combat rhino poaching in South Africa through the Rhino Informant Incentive Fund (RIIF).

The RIIF provides financial incentives to economically underdeveloped rural communities where rhino poachers reside.

Local individuals will act as informants, to assist local law enforcement in apprehending poachers and the confiscation of horns, weapons, or equipment.

"SCIF has successfully concentrated many of our financial resources into anti-poaching efforts in the last few years," said SCIF President Joseph Hosmer. "We are excited to work with The WILD Foundation through our contribution to the Rhino Informant Incentive Fund. By working collaboratively against interrnational poaching we will ensure that sustainable-use conservation and hunting can continue."

"We already see results with the first prosecution, validating further investment. The support by SCIF is instrumental in this regard, and is being matched by local, privately donated funds within South Africa. Thank you to the hunting community for continuing your role in sustainable use conservation," stated WILD President Vance Martin.

The deployment of SA soldiers along the border between Kruger and Mozambique have already yielded some success as four suspected Mozambican poachers were apprehended by soldiers in the reserve last week.

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