South African National Parks has announced a $23.7 million (255 million rand) commitment over three years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to help combat rhinoceros poaching in South Africa's Kruger National Park.
The funds pledged by the son of billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett will be used to establish an Intensive Protection Zone in Kruger Park, where hunters from Mozambique have decimated the park's rhino population, and to provide park rangers with a helicopter, an aerostat balloon, and land vehicles equipped with sophisticated electronic sensors. The initiative also will focus on cross-border criminal investigations and intelligence networks in an effort to learn "what works and what doesn't work," Buffett told the Associated Press.
South Africa, home to almost all the world's rhinos, lost a thousand of its approximately twenty thousand rhinos to poachers in 2013 — the majority in Kruger Park — compared with 668 the previous year and 448 in 2011. Rhino hunting is driven by soaring demand for rhino horns, which are prized as a key ingredient in traditional medicine in newly affluent Asian countries such as Vietnam and China.
"We're going to do it at a scale that hasn't been done," Buffett told the AP, while acknowledging that the initiative doesn't directly address soaring demand for rhino horn. Buffett also noted the links between poaching in Africa, particularly of elephant ivory, and a broader problem in which armed groups obtain funding from the illegal trafficking of natural resources. "When you see what conflict does to people, you cannot turn away," Buffett told Reuters. "That conflict is fuelled by rhino horns, elephant ivory."