Kruger Park rangers will shoot 300 to 400 buffalo and 200 hippo in 2017‚ on the back of 105 buffalo and 52 hippo killed in 2016 and the refurbishment of the Skukuza abattoir to process the carcasses for sale of meat for human consumption.
Conservation Action Trust says last year‚ SANParks officials justified the culling of hippo as drought-related, saying it was better to kill the animals before they suffered from the drought. Now, given the protracted rainfall in the area recently‚ the explanations for the continued killing has shifted to that of feeding impoverished rural populations that border the western boundary of the park.
Writing for the Trust, Adam Cruise says explanations given at a public meeting in Skukuza this month are concerning stakeholders who says the Kruger National Park forges ahead with its program of shooting buffalo as part of a sustainable offtake programme that does not appear to have clear objectives.
“This re-direction of culling to feed settlements is alarming given the timeframe of a few months‚” says Richard Prinsloo of Africa Wild‚ a public forum that monitors the governance within SANParks‚ “since it creates many more questions regarding the management‚ planning‚ motivation‚ as well as confusion among the scientists and public alike.”
Prinsloo says the park has never been mandated to provide sustenance to communities and that this new strategy of commercialisation of meat seems to have taken priority over conservation and has “not borne public scrutiny.”
Ralph Sibande‚ another stakeholder at the meeting agreed: “We are all concerned about poverty in South Africa‚ but selling meat will not solve the problem.” “Besides‚” he reasons‚ “issues of hunger are the responsibility of the Department of Social Development who are better placed than SANParks to tackle the issue.”
“Biodiversity conservation involves certain trade-offs”‚ says Louise Swemmer‚ the scientist for social and economic management at the park‚ “it’s about human well-being as well as conservation.”
Swemmer was speaking at a stakeholder seminar hosted by SANParks at Skukuza to address public concerns about the animal off-take program. She said the process will provide “tangible benefits” to schools on a small-scale feeding scheme and will in no-way impact the overall numbers of buffalo in the park.