Gains made in fight against rhino poaching: Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa

JANUARY 22, 2015

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) secured a conviction rate of 61% in criminal cases related to rhino poaching during the 2013/14 financial year, says Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday on measures being taken to combat rhino poaching in the country, Minister Molewa said the number of arrested alleged poachers, couriers and syndicate members had risen from 343 in 2013 to 386 in 2014.

South Africa is home to the largest population of rhino in the world. Last year, a total of 174 alleged rhino poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park and 212 in the rest of the country.

In December, 16 members of a rhino horn smuggling syndicate in Prague, Czech Republic, were arrested.

Minister Molewa said the Czech arrests were the successful outcome of the cross-border cooperation between affected countries as well as transit and end user countries to tackle the illicit trade in rhino horn.

“Despite the successes… illicit trade in rhino horn undermines our efforts. During 2014, 1 215 rhino were killed. This is a rise in the number of poached rhino from 1 004 in 2013,” Minister Molewa said.

In 2014 there had been increased collaboration between provincial, national, international law-enforcement agencies, as well as the criminal justice system and prosecution service.

“We are stepping up our use of technologically advanced methods to reinforce the protection of the rhino.

“We have stepped up collation of proactive intelligence from multiple agencies working to combat rhino poaching,” she said.

The Department of Environmental Affairs was also working on improving crime scene management and to date, teams of officials have undergone intensive training.

Minister Molewa said the department’s translocation programme was on-going and continued to be a success.

In August, Minister Molewa announced that rhinos would be translocated from areas in South Africa where they were under threat to more secure locations.

“In the last quarter, 56 rhino have already been moved out of poaching hotspots and translocated from certain areas within the Kruger National Park to an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) as well as other more secure areas,” she said.

An IPZ is an area where additional resources are deployed in order to ensure better protection for the rhino population.

“On top of this, approximately 100 rhino have been translocated to neighbouring States during 2014, through both private partnerships and government initiatives,” Minister Molewa said.

She said translocation was aimed at creating rhino strongholds, areas where rhino can cost effectively be protected while applying conservation husbandry to maximise the population.

A number of the translocated animals have been collared so that their movements can be monitored. None of the animals moved to IPZ have been poached.

Minister Molewa said she has established a committee of inquiry to look into the issue of whether or not to legalise trade in rhino horn.

“One hundred and fifty new and specially trained and equipped border guards are in the process of being deployed all along the border on the Mozambican side.”

Minister Molewa said South Africa and other countries impacted by rhino poaching could not win the fight alone.

“I call on our partners and indeed on all South Africans to work with us in winning this fight, all the while working alongside communities in the management and ownership of wildlife. This is our very precious heritage.” – SAnews.gov.za