South African National Parks (SANParks) confirmed the poisoning cases in response to inquiries from Daily Maverick Based on a report.
During the period from January 2020 to the end of June 2023, eight poisoned lions were found in the northern Xanatseni region of the Kruger National Park. SANParks said in an emailed response that six more lions were killed in traps during the same period.
She said all cases of poisoning have been reported to the police and are being investigated by SANParks’ Environmental Crime Investigation Unit.
“Although the poisoning of lions is targeted, with different body parts removed from the animals, snoring is still indiscriminate and many different species are killed in the traps,” Sanparks said.
It added that “in the last six months – from January 2023 to June 2023 – a total of 1,987 decoys were removed in the northern Xanatseni region comprising the Pafuri, Punda Maria, Shingwedzi, Vlakteplaas, Shangoni and Woodlands divisions.”
It must be said that this could not be compared to the poaching spree I witnessed Thousands of rhinos have been killed for their horns at the Kruger over the past 15 yearsdecimating the population by up to 75% between 2011 and 2021.
The deaths of 14 lions — eight are known to have been specifically targeted for body parts, a nod to the trade in muti or traditional medicine, which highly prizes vivisection on wild animals — over three and a half years does not present a material threat to the park’s total population of about 1,500 to 1,700. Lion.
Shot through the arcs
However, when there is a demand for such a product, criminal gangs will find a way to poach and profit from it, so it’s a warning shot through Kruger’s bows.
There is also a demand for lion bones in Asia, which are fed by captive-bred lions in South Africa.
That could lead to wild cats being placed on reserves with large populations in the Crossroads region of South Africa, which has well-established illegal trade routes to Asia for rhino horns and a host of other illegal things like gold.
Just look at what the demand for rhino horn in Asia for a range of purposes—from medicinal to ornamental—has done to thigh dwellers. The rhino poaching tsunami that swept through the Kruger, an area the size of Israel that is difficult to secure and patrol, began as a ripple.
SANParks said it was being proactive about the situation.
“Major efforts are being made to monitor lions in the far north of the park, and SANParks is working closely with the EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) to fit monitoring and tracking collars on the remaining roosts,” the company said.
Range rangers also patrol areas known as “hotspots” for traps, and routinely remove any decoys they identify. Honorary SANParks rangers also conduct dedicated trap patrols in areas of known hotspots and contribute significantly to the removal of decoys, as well as recording relevant information. of SANParks (types of decoys such as wire or cable, GPS locations, age of decoys, etc.).”
Relocations have also occurred between the south of the park, which has a relatively large population, and the north. “The good performance of the lions in the south of the Kruger has led to males and prides leaving the park in search of alternative territories. These often move to areas where they can come into conflict with people.
Conflict between man and wildlife is simply not good for people or large creatures.
“Proactive removal of southern lions that have left the park provides an opportunity to aid the colonization process in northern Kruger. This suggests that management can overcome disruptions from traps and poisoning by introducing lions from southern Kruger while also addressing the criminality of illegal lion harvesting.”
For this reason, SANParks has introduced three prides and two males. However, a coalition of 12 naturally colonizing males disabled the newly introduced pride after about a year since the initiation of the initiative, resulting in several deaths.”
This highlights the complex ecological dynamics at play in a wildlife sanctuary that is subject to human management and interventions.
Hopefully, SANParks’ initiatives such as clinching and hotspot auditing will nip this menace in the bud. The park does not need a new massacre of megafauna. But the socio-economic context is challenging to say the least.
Kruger is like an island of wilderness surrounded by a growing sea of human poverty. Random bumping points for trading in bushmeat, as well as maybe a giver, and whoever ventures into the park to set traps probably doesn’t have a well-paying day job.
Having said that, some of Kroger’s regularly paid employees are also on the alert — or vulnerable to threats from criminal gangs — which enables corruption to continue to undermine the park’s ability to stand up to poaching.
“For more than a decade, the Kruger National Park has faced a relentless onslaught of rhino poaching. But the biggest threat today is internal corruption, which in itself is a symptom of a breakdown in trust, staff cohesion and professionalism within the park,” researcher Julian Rademier notes in a report. earlier this year, Landscapes of fearfor the European Union-funded anti-crime organization, Enact.
Read more at The Daily Maverick: Report: Kruger Park is involved in corruption linked to criminal gangs
Protecting Kruger’s wildlife, from lions to rhinos to trap-threatened impalas, is no walk in the park. DM
To read all about The Gathering: Earth Edition recently published by the Daily Maverick, click here here.