Elephant poaching a very real and growing threat in the Kruger Park

On 31 December 2017, the ban on legal ivory trade in China, which represents the world’s largest market for ivory, finally came into effect! This is the greatest single step toward reducing the brutal poaching which kills on average 100 elephants every day in Africa.

Until recently South Africa had escaped ivory poachers trying to cash-in on the illicit global trade, which is estimated to be worth more than one billion dollars. Unfortunately the demise of elephants in central and eastern Africa has shifted the poaching endemic further south to South Africa which remains a stronghold for these giant pachyderms.

Tanzania lost two thirds of its entire elephant population in just four years. Zimbabwe and Mozambique have also been targeted as poachers annihilate the remaining elephant populations in these countries.

It’s estimated that Africa loses 35 000 to 50 000 every year to poachers and fewer than 500 000 elephants remain in the wild today on the African continent.

In the Kruger, most elephant poaching incidents occur in the north of the park, whilst rhino poachers concentrate on the central and southern areas where rhino are more common. Escalating elephant poaching in the park is stretching the park’s counter-poaching resources to the limit along the reserves 1000 km border.

It is concerning that in 2017, 67 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park and one in KwaZulu-Natal. Specific risk areas have been identified and strategies to address the threat are being adapted and implemented by SANparks officials.

Another concern is the “new poaching trend” of wildlife poisoning where poachers resort to wildlife poisoning in national parks and protected areas in Southern Africa. This trend, which started in Zimbabwe a few years ago is now steadily growing in South Africa.  Apart from the animals being targeted, numerous other species also suffer because to this. Last year two lions and over 100 vultures died after feeding on a poisoned elephant carcass.  As such, vultures are becoming more vulnerable with some species now critically endangered as unscrupulous poachers resort to poisoning of carcasses.