SAPS has an integrated approach to rhino poaching

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pretoria –  The police have initiated several breakthroughs in the fight against rhino poaching and other attacks on the country’s endangered species, says Deputy Minister of Police, Maggie Sotyu.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate on rhino poaching on Tuesday, Deputy Minister Sotyu said the National Police Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, had developed an integrated and multi-disciplinary process between the relevant SAPS divisions, known as the Crime Detection Framework.

The divisions included in the framework are the HAWKS, the detective services and the operational response service.

“The DPCI/HAWKS is a champion division to root out this crime. You will know that, rhino killings have now become a very sophisticated and organised crime. The organisation, transport and smuggling/trafficking out of the rhino horns are done by a large, sophisticated organised crime syndicates.

“Which, in-fact now include the so-called trusted wildlife industry professionals, swelling in the ranks of the poaching demographic,” said the Deputy Minister.

She said it was for this reason that there was now a dedicated Special Investigation Unit led by the SAPS Detective Services, which only focuses on rhino poaching.
 
This unit, which is located within the SAPS Cross-Border Unit, operates under the operational agreement between the Southern African Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPPCO) member states.
 
All operational members of this unit, which are made up of all detective heads of the member countries, are situated and operating at the borderlines, as per the Permanent Coordinating Sub-Committee of SARPPCO, the Deputy Minister explained.
 
“Most importantly … we want to assure our people that the police are not only focusing on rhino poaching at the borderlines. Police are there to prioritise all types of crimes happening within and at the edges of our ports of entry, to safeguard our nation.”
 
Deputy Minister Sotyu said those who planned to kill animals for their body parts were nothing more than criminals who had no regard for the importance of the country’s ecosystem and it’s dependency on it to survive.  

In a landmark ruling, a rhino poacher was sentenced to 77 years imprisonment in the Nelspruit Magistrates Court.

“This has been one of the heaviest penalties aimed at curbing this crime against our environment. Such successful prosecutions are crystal clear indication that our police are working very hard long hours to ensure that justice is done.”

She said there were no quick-fix solutions. “This crime is not only complex and very hard to police, it also poses a lot of challenges on issues of capacity, costs and community intelligence.”

She added that there was a need for a more concerted and integrated effort between all stakeholders and roleplayers mandated to curb rhino poaching.

General Phiyega was boosting the capacity of police personnel, particularly in crime-scene management, to combat rhino killings, but, said the Deputy Minister, this effort needed to be reciprocated by working closely with communities that are located near rhino reserves or parks or farms in the different provinces.
 
There was also a need for efficient and working bilateral agreements with those countries that border parks, like Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

A National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) has been established at the Kruger National Park, which is still the centre of the majority of poaching rhino horn in South Africa.

“It is the SAPS’ hope that there would be better communication and collaboration between government departments and to improve database systems sharing. There are so many anti-poaching campaigns, and there could be now an over-flow duplication of effort.”

She said already existing bilateral agreements needed to be beefed up to ensure that the operational agreement between SAPS and SARPCOO was formalised to allow a speedier extradition application for cross-border criminals. – SAnews.gov.za

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