Rhino poaching on the decline

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Department of Environmental Affairs has expressed concern that while rhino poaching numbers are coming down, the prevalence of personnel being arrested for rhino poaching offences is on the increase.

In an update on the implementation of the integrated strategic management of rhino on Friday, the department said in addition to the arrests affected by Operation Rhino 9, a total of 13 wildlife traffickers were arrested between 1 January and 31 August 2018.

Of the 13 arrests made by the Hawks, five were Chinese nationals and eight were South Africans.

“It is still of concern that our own personnel are being arrested for rhino poaching related offences.  Since January, four officials have been arrested by SANParks enforcement staff in the Kruger National Park for poaching-related offences.

“These include members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF),” said the department in a statement.

Since SANParks introduced integrity management throughout the organisation to support ongoing anti-poaching efforts, a number of officials have been dismissed following disciplinary processes.  A number of these have also faced criminal charges.

Meanwhile, more than 60.92kg of rhino horn was confiscated and linked to poaching crime scenes in KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.

For the Kruger National Park, the number of arrests of alleged poachers stands at 162 for the period 1 January 2018 to 31 August 2018, while a total of 145 weapons were seized in rhino-related incidents both inside and outside the park.  The park also confiscated a total of 83 rhino horn in the same period.

Investigations and Prosecutions 

 The department noted that one of the challenges facing law enforcement when coming to poaching-related offences is that suspected kingpins and syndicate members hide and even dispose of the proceeds of their alleged activities “as a result of lengthy trial delays”.

A number of rhino poaching related cases are now being dealt with by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

There are currently 530 rhino poaching related cases on the court roll involving 750 accused and 1 738 charges, with close to 300 of these cases being trial-ready.

The charges range from rhino poaching, rhino horn trafficking, and the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

From January to August 2018 a total of 70 cases, involving 163 accused were finalised, with the trials resulting in 93% guilty verdicts, translating to 288 years in sentencing.

Rhino poaching on the decline

The department said the number of rhinos being poached is on the decline compared to the same time last year.

All of the country’s nine provinces had experienced dramatic declines in rhino poaching. Between 1 January 2018 and 31 August 2018 508 rhino were poached, compared to 691 for the same period in 2017.

Rhino poaching numbers in the Kruger National Park also continue to decline.

“In the period under review, a total of 292 rhino were poached, compared to 332 in the same period last year,” said the department.

The decline came despite a dramatic escalation in poacher activity inside the Park, ranging from sightings, to poacher camps found, to incursions.

A total of 1873 incidents were recorded in the period under review. This is compared to 1 702 in 2017.

It is also particularly pleasing to note the decline in the numbers of rhino poached in KwaZulu-Natal during the period under review.

In the same period in 2017, a total of 163 rhino were poached, whereas this year the number stands at 83.

“This is extremely noteworthy and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, working in collaboration with the SAPS, are to be commended,” the department said.

However, it said elephant poaching is on the increase. - SAnews.gov.za