Pretoria – Over 120 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since the beginning of the year, with the Kruger National Park continuing to be the hardest hit.
“The Kruger National Park continues to be the hardest hit, having lost 92 rhino in the past two months. Twelve rhino have been poached in North West, 12 in KwaZulu-Natal and eight in Limpopo,” said Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa at a Post Cabinet briefing on Thursday.
She said of the 46 people arrested in connection with rhino poaching this year, three were couriers, adding that a total of 24 alleged poachers have been arrested in the Kruger National Park, nine in Limpopo and eight in North West.
The minister welcomed some of the measures introduced to combat this ongoing scourge of rhino poaching which has been elevated to a priority crime by the National Joint Operations Centre (NATJOINTS).
She said some of the rhino poaching interventions in place include the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) assisting with border security in the Kruger National Park, while additional rangers have been trained in anti-poaching methods in the Park.
She said the soldiers presently patrolling the Kruger National Park will be obtaining more powers to be of greater assistance in anti-poaching efforts.
Minister Molewa also announced that SANParks has also received additional funding from the National Treasury to increase security in the Kruger National Park.
Cabinet also noted that the North West, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal provinces are significantly affected by the killing of rhinos.
Cabinet emphasized the need to invest in technology (unmanned equipment) while increasing the ground coverage and area integrity by personnel.
It also emphasized the need to implement a centralised permitting system for the hunting of rhino to ensure stricter controls and the elimination of abuse of the permitting system by alleged crime syndicates.
Molewa said greater cooperation is being sought from communities living adjacent to protected areas housing rhino, with field rangers being employed from some of the impoverished villages.
“It is hoped that through interaction with communities, intelligence that could contribute to the arrest and conviction of alleged poachers, couriers and syndicate bosses would result.
“It is through collaboration with stakeholders that sustainable conservation of the rhino population in South Africa will succeed,” she said.
Government have been continuing with bilateral engagements with neighbouring Mozambique, as well as identified consumer states and this resulted in the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to increase collaboration on biodiversity and conservation matters.
Molewa will use the upcoming 16th Conference of Parties in Thailand scheduled for March 3 to 14, to engage with China, Thailand, the European Union, the United States and Southern African representatives on the issues of rhino conservation, rhino economics or international trade in rhino horn and possible legislative interventions.-SAnews.gov.za