500 rhinos to be evacuated from Kruger National Park

630 rhinos killed in South Africa so far this year

Updated: 
500 rhinos to be moved from Kruger National Park

Hundreds of rhinos are to be evacuated from South Africa's Kruger National Park to save them from poachers.

The move, which is part of a plan to curb illegal hunts for rhino horn, was announced by the environment minister.

Up to 500 rhinos will be moved to safer areas.

Illegal rhino poaching in South Africa has soared in recent years from 13 in 2007 to 1,004 in 2013, reports the Telegraph.

According to the Independent, rhino horns are highly prized in newly affluent Asian countries as a sign of wealth.

Soldiers have been deployed in Kruger National Park to protect them.

Despite this, 630 rhinos have been killed in South Africa this year - 408 of them in Kruger, according to officials.

The latest census from Kruger shows it has between 8,400 and 9,600 white rhinos.

Environment Minister Edna Molewa said "Relocations from the Kruger National Park and the creation of rhino strongholds could allow the total rhino population size of South Africa to continue to grow."

The endangered animals could be moved to areas of lower poaching rates such as state-owned or private nature parks or even to neighboring countries such as Botswana and Zambia.

Removing the animals is a huge task and moving one animal can cost up to $2,000. "It is a mammoth task," Environment minister Edna Molewa said. "We must start soon."

The rhinos must first be tracked down in rugged and remote bush before they are darted with tranquilisers from helicopters.

The operation will focus on areas of high poaching activity within the park.

"We are looking at capturing about six to eight animals a day in the cooler months," Markus Hofmeyr, the national park's head of veterinary services, said at a news briefing.

South Africa has relocated 1,450 animals from Kruger over the past 15 years. In 2009 a record 250 rhinos were evacuated from the park, but Mr Hofmeyr said the scale of the poaching problem calls for more drastic action.

"We have to take rhinos to where they are safe," he said.

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