Traditional healers fight rhino poaching

Friday, March 24, 2017

Skukuza – A traditional healer who hails from Limpopo’s Malamulele region has joined the fight against rhino poaching and is taking part in an awareness campaign to discourage communities from working with poachers.

President for the SADC Unified Traditional Health Practitioners Association Dr Sylvester Hlathi said when he did research on rhino poaching, he discovered that poachers were working with criminals as they would supply them with ‘muthi’ which is believed it can protect them in court or when they are in the veld.

“We as traditional healers are not prepared to work with criminals in terms of helping them. Muthi can do bad things and it can do good things,” Dr Hlathi said at the Kruger National Park recently. Since 2012, Dr Hlathi has been educating communities in Mpumalanga and Limpopo about the effects that rhino poaching could have on the country’s tourism industry, which may affect the economy negatively.

He has encouraged traditional healers to work with police in apprehending poachers as they sometimes approach traditional healers if they have been injured in the veld.

As a result of his campaign, seven poachers have been arrested with the assistance of traditional healers.

Dr Hlathi said young people who are not employed in the villages were vulnerable to rhino poaching syndicates as they are targeted with a promise to getting money.

He said for medicinal purposes, traditional healers use animal fat, animal skin, animal blood and bones but they do not need to use large portions.

“We as the traditional healers have an agreement with the Kruger National Park (KNP) to get animal fat, animal skin, animal blood or bones from animals.

“If traditional healers need any of those they must not jump the fence and kill animals. They can come directly to our office’s, we will assist them to come to the KNP as there are animals who die naturally at the park, that’s how they can get access to the animals,” Dr Hlathi said.

Last year, a total of 662 rhino carcasses were found in the KNP compared to 826 in 2015. This represents a reduction of 19.85% in 2016.

Conservation efforts                                                                                                 

Meanwhile, on Thursday SANParks said it is currently taking care of 48 rhino orphans as part of its conservation efforts.

“That is a significant number of rhinos that we can now use to restock areas where there has not been rhinos or areas where they have recently been extinct. They will form the basis of future rhino re-introductions.

“It is important that the orphans get to a place where they are rehabilitated to a point where they become wild rhinos and can breed, act as normal wild animals from a social point of view,” SANParks head of Veterinary Wildlife Services Dr Markus Hofmeyer said.

He said there were two classes of orphans, the first group still need milk and second group is one that can be integrated with other rhinos without having to be given milk.

If they are younger than 10 months we take them to a specialist’s facility that has the ability to feed them milk and handle them at that level. As soon as they off the milk they are integrated with older rhinos.

The older calves are integrated immediately with surrogate mothers.

Some of the calves were recovered immediately after their mothers are shot while others were found wondering on their own.  

“We can release them as early as 18 months as they are capable at looking after themselves at that age.

“We have taken animals directly from here to other national parks but last year we could not do that because it was a drought throughout the country and we saw that if there is a resource competition, the newly introduced animals are often at a disadvantage and we didn’t want to take that risk,” Dr Hofmeyer said. –






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