CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

National News

May 2, 2013

INTERNATIONAL: Expert: Rhinos extinct in Mozambique

JOHANNESBURG —

Mozambique's rhinoceros population was wiped out more than a century ago by big game hunters. Reconstituted several years ago, it has again been driven to extinction, or to the brink of extinction, by poachers seeking their horns for sale in Asia.

A leading rhino expert told The Associated Press that the last rhino in the southern African nation has been killed. The warden in charge of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park — the only place where the horned behemoths lived in Mozambique — also says poachers have wiped out the last of the rhinos. Mozambique's conservation director believes a few may remain.

Elephants also could become extinct in Mozambique soon, the warden of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, Antonio Abacar, told AP. He said game rangers have been aiding poachers, and 30 of the park's 100 rangers will appear in court soon.

"We caught some of them red-handed while directing poachers to a rhino area," Abacar said.

A game ranger arrested for helping poachers in Mozambique's northern Niassa Game Reserve said on Mozambican Television TVM last week that he was paid 2,500 meticais (about $80) to direct poachers to areas with elephants and rhinos. Game rangers are paid between 2,000 and 3,000 meticais ($64 to $96) a month.

While guilty rangers will lose their jobs, the courts serve as little deterrent to the poachers: killing wildlife and trading in illegal rhino horn and elephant tusks are only misdemeanors in Mozambique.

"Their legal system is far from adequate and an individual found guilty is given a slap on the wrist and then they say 'OK. Give me my horn back,'" said Michael H. Knight, chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission.

A meeting of the group in February reported there might, possibly, be one white rhino left in Mozambique and no black rhinos at all, Knight said.

According to Abacar: "We have already announced the extinction of the rhino population in Limpopo National Park."

But Bartolomeu Soto, director of Mozambique's transfrontier conservation unit, told the AP "We believe we still have rhinos, though we don't know how many."

Mozambican news reports have said the last 15 rhinos in the park were slaughtered in the past month, but park officials said those reports were wrong. Soto said the misunderstanding had arisen over Abacar's statement to journalists that he had not seen a rhino in the three months since he was put in charge of the large park.

The only official figure available for rhino deaths is that 17 rhino carcasses were found in the park in 2010, Soto said. He said officials believe poaching must be taking place because rhino horn and elephant tusks carried by Asian smugglers are regularly seized at Mozambique's ports, although at least some of the contraband could be from animals killed by Mozambican poachers in neighboring South Africa. This week a person was arrested at the airport of the capital, Maputo, in possession of nine rhino horns, Soto said.

The price of rhino horn has overtaken the price of gold as demand has burgeoned in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where consumers wrongly believe that the horn — made of the same substance as fingernails — has powerful healing properties. Chinese traditional medicine prescribes it for everything from typhoid, infant convulsions and fever to an antidote for poison and to relieve arthritis and cure possessions by the devil. Syndicates from Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand have been identified as being involved in the trafficking.

Knight said rhinos first became extinct in Mozambique around the turn of the last century, in the age of the big white hunters, when the animals also nearly disappeared in South Africa, which is now home to 90 percent of Africa's estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 4,880 black rhinos.

In 2002, leaders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe agreed to establish a transfrontier park straddling their borders and covering some 35,000 square kilometers (13,514 square miles) of the best established wildlife areas in southern Africa with South Africa's famed Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park. It is funded by several international wildlife organizations and the European Union.

Soto said some 5,000 animals of various species were translocated from South Africa to Mozambique, including the first 12 rhinos to roam in Mozambique in a century.

In 2006, South Africa removed some 50 kilometers (30 miles) of fence between Kruger and Limpopo National Park. Soto said the entire 200 kilometers (125 miles) of fence was not removed because Mozambique still is working to resettle some 6,000 people living in the park.

A second phase was to include two other Mozambican parks, allowing the transfrontier park to extend over 100,000 square kilometers (39,000 sq. miles) that would make it "the world's largest animal kingdom," according to the South African Peace Parks Foundation.

Those plans now are in danger, as is the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Knight said South African officials are even discussing rebuilding their fence with Mozambique.

South African officials say their country has lost 273 rhinos to poachers so far this year. They say most have been killed by Mozambicans who cross into Kruger Park. Poachers killed 668 rhinos in South Africa last year.

The slaughter continues with the number of deaths increasing even though South Africa has declared war on rhino poachers and for two years has deployed soldiers and police in Kruger, a vast park which is the size of Israel.

Soto said Mozambique's government has been working since 2009 on a comprehensive reform of environmental laws involving consultations with all stakeholders. He said he expects the draft legislation to be presented to parliament soon. It includes criminalizing the shooting of wildlife and would impose mandatory prison sentences on offenders.

But it will come too late to save the last of the rhinos in Mozambique.

 

1
Text Only
National News
  • Fort Hood (UPDATED) Officials: 4 dead, including gunman, at Fort Hood

    A gunman opened fire Wednesday at Fort Hood in an attack that left four dead, including the shooter, law enforcement officials said.
    One of the officials, citing official internal U.S. Justice Department updates, said 14 others were hurt. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information by name.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • mfp file Hoffner Fired coach unjustly accused of visiting porn sites

    The president of Minnesota State University-Mankato accused a football coach of looking at Internet porn on a work computer before firing him, an arbitrator has revealed. The official said the claim could not be supported, and the coach shouldn't have been fired.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • High School Stabbings 4 students seriously hurt in Pa. school stabbings

    A student armed with a knife went on a stabbing and slashing spree at a high school near Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning, leaving as many as 20 people injured, including four students who suffered serious wounds, authorities said.

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • Obit Ultimate Warrior Former pro wrestler Ultimate Warrior dies at 54

    James Hellwig, better known as former pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior, has died, the WWE said. He was 54.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_amazonfiretv.jpg Amazon introduces Fire TV to challenge Apple in living rooms

    Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is stepping up efforts to win over customers in their living rooms with a $99 TV box for watching digitally delivered shows and movies, challenging Apple's TV device.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Washington Mudslide Death toll in Washington mudslide rises to 30

    As medical examiners painstakingly piece together the identities and lives of the 30 people known killed when a mudslide wiped out a small Washington community, one mystery troubles them.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Fort Hood Fort Hood gunman sought mental health treatment

    An Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness was the gunman who opened fire at Fort Hood, killing three people and wounding 16 others before committing suicide, in an attack on the same Texas military base where more than a dozen people were slain in 2009, authorities said.

    April 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court Campaign Big donors may give even more under court’s ruling

    The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday erasing a long-standing limit on campaign donations will allow a small number of very wealthy donors to give even more than is currently the case, according to students of the complex campaign finance system, and could strengthen the establishment in both parties.

    April 2, 2014 1 Photo