Almost 400 rhinos killed by the end of April
Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, on Sunday revealed that around 393 rhinos had been killed by poachers in the first four months of this year alone. During the same time last year, 331 rhinos were slaughtered by poachers across the country.
"By the end of April 2015, the number of rhino we lost to poachers was 393 for the whole country, of these, 290 were poached in the Kruger National Park,” she said.
Last year, 1215 rhino were killed by poaching syndicates, who sell the horns - that are incorrectly believed to have medicinal value, on the international black market for huge sums owng to demand in Asia.
Minister Molewa said that government was not losing the battle aganist rhino poaching.
“We are not losing the battle, we are soldiering on as you would have noticed that by the end of April this year, we’ve a total of 132 people were arrested for rhino-poaching related activities,” she said adding that 62 were arrested in the Kruger National Park as at the end of April this year,” she said.
She also said that the fight against rhino poaching needed to be waged by every one in society saying that government alone will not win the battle.
The minister said that the department recorded a number of successes as its strategies to disrupt criminal syndicates were starting to bear fruit.
"What is encouraging is the increase in the number of arrests we’ve recorded this year. To assist in the fight against poaching, our security forces working with SANParks have upped their technological game,” she said.
“We are equally vigilant outside the Kruger National Park, between January and April this year, we’ve already arrested 64 people inside the Park, while we’ve arrested 66 outside the Park. Within the four months period recovered 16 firearms, 99 rounds of ammunition, nine vehicles, and 13 rounds of horns, 27 axes and knives.
“Between July and December 2014, we recovered 53 firearms, 228 ammunition, nine vehicles, 20 horns, 42 axes and knives.”
Anti-poaching efforts go tech
Minister Molewa said to assist in the fight against poaching, security forces working with SANParks have upped their technological game.
"We received an initial grant funding of R254.8 million in 2014 to support anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park. This incorporated the establishment of ‘Air Mobility’ capacity’ and included the purchase of a first helicopter through the grant funding in September 2014.
"Subsequent to the initial grant funding, the Howard G Buffet Foundation granted SANParks an additional R37.7 million to purchase a second Airbus AS350 B3e helicopter to further increase the capacity of flight operations in the KNP.
In March this year, SANParks received this second new Airbus AS-350B3e helicopter with night flying capability.
"Just recently, the helicopter assisted in a dramatic pre-dusk swoop inside the KNP that netted four suspected poachers as well as a range of poaching equipment.
The improved aerial support to the rangers of the ground, and the increasing capacity of the canine unit have assisted in improving the effectiveness of the anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park, with 28 arrests having been effected in the month of April of this year," the Minister said.
The SANDF, SANParks and the CSIR are piloting and evaluating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as instruments in rhino protection efforts under a range of operational conditions. This is subject to finalisation of arrangements with the Department of Transport.
To further bolster the abilities of the rangers to conduct their work, Minister Molewas said field rangers and law- enforcement personnel have undergone rapid skills assessment to determine their current skill levels and training requirements by the Southern African Wildlife College and the Kruger National Park. Further training in this regard is continuing.
-additional reporting, SAnews.gov.za
Image: Early this year, in a rhion poaching incident at Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, a mother and her 2 ½ year old sub-adult calf were butchered, and the mother’s full-term (unborn) calf also died.
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