South African safari operators and conservation groups said they plan to move up to 100 rhinos to Botswana for safekeeping, as poaching levels spike to new highs in their country.
“One hundred rhinos will be captured and safely transported from South Africa and released into Botswana’s remote wilderness,” two conservation groups Beyond and Great Plains said in a joint statement.
A team of anti-poaching experts will be charged with monitoring the animals, which will be tagged and micro-chipped.
Last year more than 1,000 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa which is home to the majority of the world’s rhino population, and this marks a 50% jump from the previous year’s killings that have been fuelled by rising demand from Asia for the rhino horn.
“There is a battle raging for Africa’s wildlife. Rhinos are being poached at a rate of one every nine hours,” said Great Plains’ chief executive Dereck Joubert.
The move is expected to take place in 2015 and cost more than US$8m, which the two groups hope to raise.
Discussions are still under way about where the animals will be bought from – but likelihood is that they would include both public and private game reserves.
“The initiative would be good, we need every possible initiative to save the species,” said Isaac Phaahla, spokesman for South Africa National Parks.
South Africa is home to around 80% of the world’s rhino population, estimated at more than 25,000.
Most rhinos live in the vast Kruger Park – roughly the size of Israel – which is also the poachers’ preferred hunting ground, with more than 60% of the country’s rhino poaching occurring there.