South Africa National Parks has issued a tender to sell as many as 200 rhinos to private buyers so that they can be moved to areas where they are safer from poachers who last year killed a record number of the animals.
“A tender process has been put out,” Gerry Swan, a SANParks board member and chairman of its conservation and tourism committee, said in a telephone interview today. The possible destinations of the rhinos are being evaluated and the “movement of rhino will start in March,” he said.
In a bid to protect the species, the South African government has deployed the military in its biggest conservation area, Kruger National Park, has stepped up prosecutions of poachers and has moved 50 rhinos to safer areas within Kruger and other national parks. Israel-sized Kruger borders Mozambique, providing an opportunity for many poachers to enter the park from that country.
The rhino are hunted with automatic rifles, often by the light of the full moon, their horns sawn off and sold to buyers in China and Vietnam where powdered horn is believed to cure cancer among other ailments.
An annual record of 1,020 rhinos, or about 5 percent of the total population, had been killed in 2014 by Nov. 20, the Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement. Final figures for last year haven’t been released. A total of 1,004 were slaughtered in 2013.
A company associated with billionaire Christoffel Wiese was among buyers refunded 14 million rand ($1.2 million) in deposits last year after a contract to buy the animals from SANParks was found to be unauthorized.
Wiese is worth $6.1 billion and is South Africa’s fourth- richest man, according to Bloomberg Billionaires. He owns a reserve in South Africa’s remote Northern Cape province.
South Africa is home to both white and black rhinos, with the bigger white variety making up most of the population.