Botswana to Evacuate Black Rhinos

Posted on May 7th 2020

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Government officials in Botswana have said that the coronavirus pandemic has prompted poachers to be more active which is forcing officials to take drastic action. Since the beginning of March, there has been a rise in the number of Rhino killed. There is now a race on to evacuate the critically endangered Black Rhino from the Okavango Delta in Northwestern Botswana so that they don’t become victims of the poachers.

Poaching Increase

The increase in poaching activity appears to correlate to the diminished number of tourists within the Delta. The absence of tourists means there is less movement of tour parties, and therefore the poachers are finding it easier to move around undetected. Believing that they are less likely to be caught has spurred the poachers on and 6 Rhino have been killed since the beginning of March. Reacting to the issue, the Botswana Ministry of Environment have stepped up surveillance and the evacuation of the Black Rhinos has been instigated.

Rhino Numbers

There are thought to be around 20,000 Rhinos in Africa, however only 4500 of those are Black Rhino. With numbers so critically low the Black Rhino is facing extinction. The Okavango Delta is home to both White and Black Rhino, but as a priority the Black Rhino is being temporarily evacuated under the current poaching threat because their numbers are so low. Black Rhino were wiped out by poachers in the Delta in the early 1990’s, however they were reintroduced ten years later by relocating them from South Africa. Despite the reintroduction efforts, there are currently thought to be less than 20 Black Rhino in the region.

Evacuation Effort

The Okavango Delta floods each year when floodwater from the Angolan highlands arrive between March and June. This year the arrival of the floodwater has already begun, and that has only made the task of evacuating the Rhino harder. The evacuation effort involves spotting the Rhino from the air, and then the ground crew have to get as close as possible using trucks, however many of the roads are now inaccessible. There is also the desire to complete the evacuation before the full moon in early May. Last month there was a spike in poaching around the full moon, as poachers tend to move more freely under a well lit night sky. The Rhino are being evacuated to an undisclosed location. How long they will stay there is also being kept secret.

Botswana still a safe place for Rhino

In the past 2 years there has been an increase in poaching in Botswana. Last year over 20 Rhinos were killed, however this year that number has already been reached just in the first four months. However, officials are keen to point out that in wider context, Botswana is still a safe place for Rhino. The poaching numbers may be on the increase, but they are still low compared to other regions in Africa.

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