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No fly zones considered to curb Rhino poaching

By Sapa | 2013-05-23 06:33:55.0

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is considering making KwaZulu-Natal's game reserves no fly zones for private aircraft to help curb rhino poaching, CEO Bandile Mkhize said.

Poachers had resorted to sophisticated tactics, such as using silencers on their guns and helicopters at night, Mkhize told a two-day summit on rhino poaching at the University of Zululand near Empangeni.

"This war [against rhino poaching] is a serious war. We should be detecting who flies."

He said the difficulty was that poachers, even if they filed a flight plan with aviation authorities, did not reveal their real intention.

He did not provide details, or elaborate about a specific incident involving the use of helicopters for poaching, and said only that the imposition of no-fly zones was "a great possibility".

The organisation was improving its equipment in the fight against rhino poaching.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said communities needed to expose those behind rhino poaching.

"Why don't you tell us? Who are these people who are doing such a horrible thing?" he asked.

Communities could not say there was no one in their midst who was involved in poaching.

Historically, hunting in the Zulu kingdom was controlled by the king, and this hunting was for the purposes of livelihood and not for profit, he said.

"We beg you to stop this nonsense."

He said the authorities had to bring rural communities into the fight against rhino poaching.

"It hurts me deeply every time I see a report of another rhino killed."

Rhino poachers and those who drove the rhino horn trade needed to be seen as "enemies of Africa".

Mkhize said 11 rhino had been killed in the province in the past week.

Since February, 128 rhino had been killed in South Africa, according to environmental affairs department figures quoted on the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA's website.

Last year, 668 rhino were killed, 66 of them in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mkhize said he was still in favour of the legalised sale of rhino horn from stock-piles of horns collected by the authorities, from the carcasses of rhino which had died naturally in the environment.

He said he believed this would help cut demand for illegal horns and would be an important measure in the fight to preserve rhino populations.

"If the rhino disappears, it's not only us in conservation that will suffer," he said.

He said the rhino was just one part in the economic chain, and a drop in the number of tourists as a result of their demise would affect others' livelihoods.

"The loss of rhino would be too ghastly to contemplate," he said.

Rhino horns are used as dagger handles in the Middle Eastern country of Yemen, while in the Far East the horn is prized for its medicinal purposes. South Africa has the largest rhino population in the world.