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Poachers have killed all rhinos in Limpopo Park, Mozambique

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 27, 2013 in Environment
The directors of the Limpopo National Park (PNL) in Mozambique have announced that poachers have wiped out all the rhinos in the park. Poachers traffic in rhino horns to meet the Asian market demand for preparations believed to have medicinal properties.
The Limpopo National Park in Mozambique is an extensive trans-frontier wildlife reserve.
The Portugal News reports that according to park director Antonio Abacar, no rhinos have been seen in the park since January. Abacar said failure to sight a rhino in the park for so long means that all "the ones that lived on the park are probably dead."
According to News24, the director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's (IFAW) wildlife crime and consumer awareness program, Kelvin Alie, said poachers killed the remaining 15 rhinos in the park last month. The total number of the animals living in the park was estimated at about 300 in 2002.
Abacar told reporters: "Our greatest problem is that some of our workers are involved in poaching." The park authorities said 30 rangers employed in the park have been charged with colluding with poachers to kill the rhinos and will appear in court soon.
Alie said: "It is tragic beyond tears that we learn game rangers have now become the enemy in the fight to protect rhino from being poached for their horns. That the entire rhino population of part of such an important conservation initiative can be wiped out – and with the help of wildlife enforcement officers - speaks volumes about the deadly intent of the wildlife trade. They will stop at nothing to get to their quarry."
The Portugal News reports that the Limpopo National Park is part of an extensive cross-border reserve which covers the South African Kruger National Park and the Gonarezhou Park in Zimbabwe, a total area of about 35,000 square kilometer. The Limpopo Park spans about 4,247 square miles (11,000 square kilometers), an area of more than twice the size of the US state of Rhode Island, Live Science estimates.
The porosity of the borders between South Africa and Mozambique across the trans-frontier park has been a source of tension between both countries. South African police and army have reportedly killed about 279 Mozambican poachers and arrested 300 since 2008.
According to News24, poaching in Mozambique spills over the border to the Kruger National Park in South Africa. The rhinos in the South African side are also fast disappearing. Kruger authorities estimate that 180 rhinos have been killed in the park since January 2013. A total of 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year, according to park officials.
Rhino horns are valued for their supposed medicinal properties, a claim that has no scientific grounds. The demand for rhino horn in medicinal preparations is high in Vietnam and Indonesia. Efforts to counter the folk belief in the medicinal properties of rhino horn have not been very successful.
Live Science notes that with all the rhinos gone, poachers will now turn undivided attention to elephants for their tusks. There is a big market for elephant ivory is China.
In the US, black rhinos are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Rhino body parts may not be imported without a permit.
However, Scientific American reports that recently, an American hunter was allowed to import trophy from a black rhino he shot in Africa, causing outrage among animal rights and conservation groups.
In spite of the failure of efforts to save the rhinos in Mozambique, IFAW says it will be providing training for customs and wildlife law enforcement officers later this year in collaboration with Interpol. The efforts will be geared towards saving the fast dwindling elephant population.
According to News24, IFAW director for Southern Africa, Jason Bell, said: "Cross border co-operation and intelligence-led enforcement are the only way we can halt poaching and trafficking. It is too big a problem for any one country to tackle. We need range states, transit countries and destination countries to share their law enforcement resources, including intelligence, or we’ll never be in a position to shut down the kingpins of the international ivory trade. Poaching and the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn is an issue of global significance and needs a global response if we are to turn the tables on the killers. This cannot happen in a vacuum. Consumer nations – China, Vietnam and Indonesia – have to make a concerted effort to reduce the demand for these products in their own backyards because otherwise the battle will be lost."
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