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529 rhinos killed, 359 poachers and traffickers arrested between January and June 2017

Jul 24, 2017
529 rhinos killed, 359 poachers and traffickers arrested between January and June 2017

A total of 529 rhinos have been poached since January 2017 while 359 alleged poachers and traffickers were arrested nationally, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, announced on Monday while reporting back on the progress of the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management Approach of Rhinoceros.

The media breifing was held at Parliament in Cape Town.

According to Dr Molewa, the 529 rhinos poached reξpresents a decrease of 13 rhinos when compared to the 542 in the same period for 2016.

"With regards to the Kruger National Park (KNP) which as you know has traditionally borne the brunt of poaching, a total of 243 rhino carcasses were found between January and the end of June 2017. This is compared to 354 in the same period in 2016. This represents a decrease of 34%," she told reporters. 

"As we have always stated, these declining numbers do not mean we can proclaim victory. Nevertheless, the downward trend is being established, which is cause for cautious optimism.

"Whilst there has been a decrease in the number of rhino killed for their horns in the Kruger National Park and Mpumalanga, the number of rhino poached unfortunately increased in some other provinces."

The Minister said that it is with concern that in 2017, 30 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park.

"The interventions being implemented to counter rhino poaching are also used to respond to this emerging threat," she added.

"It is clear that more resources are required to address this challenge that we are experiencing in terms of both rhino and elephant poaching."

Concerning the arrests, the Minister said that the number of arrests inside the Kruger National Park totaled 90 alleged poachers with 112 arrested adjacent to the park.

"We are acutely aware that in order to make a real impact on rhino poaching, these arrests must translate into successful investigations and prosecutions," she added.

"We are happy to report that the Skukuza Regional Court has been sitting since March 2017. It is now fully functional with a number of successful prosecutions.

"The Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit continues to play an instrumental role in ensuring rhino poaching cases come to trial. The Unit’s track record this year so far has been noteworthy.

"Since January 15 cases have been recently finalised which resulted in convictions with 22 perpetrators being sentenced to a total of 95 years imprisonment. It is anticipated that the new regional court at Skukuza will address the remaining cases."

Dr Molewa also said that in addition, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) also known as the Hawks, working in close cooperation with other government departments has also done sterling work since January 2017.

"The Hawks have made arrests and seizures in 9 cases involving rhino horn traffickers, involving 13 suspects and approximately 140 kilograms of rhino horn.  

"The coordinated efforts between DPCI, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Customs, supported by the Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI’s) are beginning to result in the dismantling the trafficking networks," the Minister described.

She said that the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Environmental Affairs continue to lead the campaign against rhino poaching in partnership with the Departments of Defence (DoD) Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) and the State Security Agency (SSA).

"Our provincial conservation authorities and SANParks ensure the execution of plans inside our provincial and national Parks, and I would like to salute them, especially our ranger corps. They are our men and women on the frontline, keeping our precious natural resources safe.

"You put their lives on the line every day to keep our rhino safe and on behalf of all South Africans I want to thank each and every one of you," said Dr Molewa.

"Because we are battling a threat on so many fronts and spread across the expanses of the country, this has necessitated that almost the entire Ranger Corps have been converted to anti-poaching units. They are well trained and supported by canine units, small air wings, and relevant technology.

"Tactical information management ensures the intelligent deployment of these units. This approach is also being followed by private rhino owners and close cooperation with them has become the norm."

She said that given its size and the large number of rhino living in the KNP in particular, much of our efforts remain directed there.

"I am pleased to announce that there has been a decrease in poaching incidents in the KNP. This is due to our sustained effective law enforcement efforts.

"The threat of poaching is now a challenge to other provinces, particularly Kwa-Zulu/Natal," the Minister said.

"Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has begun strengthening its response capacity as an anti-poaching unit in line with the existing Mission Area Joint Operational Center (MAJOC). As part of the plan, they are now in the process of setting up an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) to ensure priority allocation of resources to where it matters most.

"Based on the success registered in the implementation of the zoning concept in the KNP, this concept is also being rolled out in other provinces according their specific requirements and circumstances."

She also said that SANParks alone has rescued 4 orphans in 2017 and presently holds 44 rhino orphans at various facilities.