17 January 2012

Mozambique: South Africa Border Fence May Be Rebuilt

The South African government has announced that talks are under way concerning the possibility of re-erecting a 150-kilometre stretch of fence along the Mozambique-South Africa border in the Kruger National Park.

On Monday, government spokesperson Mandla Mathebula told the SAPA news agency that South African National Parks was in discussion with the departments of the environment and public works on the logistics of putting back the fence.

The review of fencing is in response to the continuing problem of rhino poaching.

On 11 January two Mozambicans, suspected of poaching rhinoceros, were shot dead inside South Africa's Kruger National Park in a shoot-out with game rangers.

It is suspected that the two were part of a gang responsible for the slaughter of eight rhinos on 10 January. After finding the dehorned rhino carcasses, the rangers set out on the trail of the poachers.

Since 2009, South Africa has lost 911 rhinos to poachers. These are the known deaths. Other rhino carcasses may have gone undiscovered. Last week eleven rhinos were found dead and de-horned.

The poachers are after the rhino's horn, which is highly valuable due to its use in traditional medicines in Asia. The medicines are fraudulent, since rhino horn has no curative power whatever. The horn is made of keratin - the same protein found in human hair and fingernails.

The head of South African National Parks, David Mabunda, told a briefing on 15 January that the reinstallation or repair of the fence would cost 250 million rand. The proposal is to electrify the fence, but not to a level that would be lethal.

In 1975 the apartheid regime in South Africa put up a lethal electric fence along the border with Mozambique. However, the voltage was reduced after the unbanning of the African National Congress in 1990, and since the end of apartheid much of the fence has either been removed or knocked down by elephants.

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