Conservation projects happening in the park

The statistics may be harrowing, but it is important to know what our wildlife is facing in order to protect it effectively.

The Kruger National Park has many red data species (severely endangered) including birds and mammals. The most prominent among mammals is the rhino, which has been under attack for years. Poachers kill these majestic beasts and sell their horns to the Asian traditional medicine black market for a hefty price. It is believed that rhino horn increases virility. As of June 2012 a staggering 147 rhinos were killed by poachers in 2012 in the Kruger National Park. Poachers have advanced electronic gear that aids them to get to the animals, kill them, saw their horns off and get away without detection.

But all hope is not lost – there are many charities, companies and individuals committed to the saving of the rhino. Special task forces – including specially trained rhino ‘bodyguards’, tactical gear and weapons (including aircraft!) – have been employed to take care of the situation, and so far 165 arrests have been made in connection with rhino poaching in South Africa this year.

Although the rhino gets most of the endangered-animal media attention, the status of the wild dog is actually far more perilous than that of the rhino. The Kruger is home to the only viable pack of wild dogs in South Africa, and their future looks bleak. According to conservationists, the status of the wild dog is as it is because of various factors: persecution by mankind (they are seen as a pest), genetic inbreeding (wild dogs in the Kruger have a life expectancy of approximately 6 years) and diseases like rabies and distemper (because of contact with domesticated dogs).

You might not hear about it as much as you do about rhinos, but there is a small group of fastidiously dedicated people working incredibly hard to save the wild dog. A continent-wide programme has been established by The Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society of London and they are rolling out plans to save this interesting animal.

Birds have not managed to escape the red list – and their populations are especially vulnerable to extinction. Among these endangered species are the Bateleur and Southern Ground-Hornbill, as well as the Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Kori Bustard and Grey-headed Parrot. The Kruger’s vast grasslands have saved many raptors, however poisoning by farmers is a big problem. Education drives and information dispersion has helped many of the species bounce back.