South Africa reported the first case of elephant poaching in the Kruger National Park in more than 10 years, as a patrol found a bull shot and its tusks hacked off in the northern part of the reserve, near Mozambique.
“We are definitely worried there might be more, we simply hope it’s not the start of an onslaught on these animals,” Reynold Thakhuli, a spokesman for South African National Parks, said by phone today. “We are on high alert.”
The parks’ authority has been preparing to combat elephant poaching, while maintaining its focus on protecting South Africa’s rhino population, Thakhuli said. About 8 percent of the estimated 470,000 African elephants are poached every year, according to African Wildlife Foundation. About 300,000 of them live in southern Africa. Elephant ivory can be sold for as much as $1,000 a kilogram in Hong Kong.
“We have been alarmed about the elephant poaching happening in Central Africa and its more recent spread and escalation into East Africa and then Southern Africa,” Jo Shaw, rhino program manager at the World Wildlife Fund in Cape Town, said by e-mail. “This latest news from Kruger National Park seems to prove that nowhere is safe and we need to respond strongly.”
A patrol in the northern Pafuri region of Kruger Park came across footprints leading toward Mozambique, Johan Jooste, commanding officer of South African National Parks’ rangers, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
“Upon further investigations, which involved backtracking, the rangers on patrol came upon the elephant carcass,” he said.
About 300 rhinos were poached in South Africa this year compared with a record 1,004 for all of 2013. Most of the animals were killed in the eastern Kruger National Park, where poachers slip across the 350-kilometer (217-mile) border with Mozambique.
Rhino horns are smuggled to east Asia where they can fetch as much as $95,000 per kilogram and are believed to cure cancer and improve a person’s libido.