Minister calls for harsh sentence for poaching kingpin

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pretoria - Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has called for a strict sentence to be imposed on rhino poaching kingpin and Thai national, Chumlong Lemtongthai.

Lemtongthai pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining hunting permits that led to the illegal exportation of nearly 26 rhino horns.

The Kempton Park Magistrate Court is expected to sentence Lemtongthai, who was found guilty of breaching the Customs and Excise Act and the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act, on Wednesday.

Molewa lauded the sterling work done by the country's law enforcement agencies and the South African Revenue Services in fighting poaching.

A total of 222 people have been arrested for rhino poaching and related activities since the beginning of 2012.

South Africa has lost a total of 528 rhinos to poachers since the beginning of 2012. The Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit, having lost a total of 320 rhino since January.

In a bid to curb rhino poaching, SANParks is working closely with Denel as part of government's collaborative efforts to combat the poaching scourge on a number of fronts.

In April this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs implemented revised norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn, and for the hunting of rhinoceros for trophy purposes.

This saw the introduction of stricter controls for the granting of trophy hunting permits in South Africa and illustrated the serious light in which the department views the possible abuse of the permit system.

The new norms and standards clearly stipulate that hunting applicants must, amongst others, submit proof of membership to a recognised hunting association; may only hunt one white rhinoceros within a 12-month period and the hunt must be accompanied by an environmental management inspector or an official of the issuing authority.

The official accompanying the hunt must also take DNA samples of the rhino horn and fit it with a micro-chip.

These controls were put in place to prevent the issuing of fraudulent hunting permits.

The minister reiterated that individuals found guilty of abusing the hunting permit system would be dealt with in a serious manner. -