Lie tests for Ezemvelo staff to fight rhino poaching

2012-10-19 00:00

EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife staff are to undergo polygraph tests from next week as the wildlife body intensifies its fight against rhino poaching.

CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize said there was a growing need to “vet” all their staff of nearly 4 000 people to know who can be “trusted”.

This year, 54 rhinos have been poached in KZN, 40 of them in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife parks.

Rhino horns fetch up to R500 000 per kilogram. One horn weighs on average between five and six kilograms.

“Currently, it is difficult to know who you can trust as there is such large amounts of money involved. We want to weed out the rotten apples. We are talking about organised crime here,” said Mkhize.

His comments emanate from the findings in an internal report that recommended a number of radical changes to just how the provincial wildlife body takes on the fight against rhino poaching.

Released in a media statement, the report stated there was a need for more “clandestine” patrols; criminal background checks of staff; all critical staff to be required to sign a declaration of secrecy in future; contract work within the park be scaled down; the implementation of improved communication equipment, including a secure radio channel for all security personnel; expansion of aerial patrols, electronic vehicle monitoring, and the deployment of specialised units belonging to the SANDF into “rhino areas”.

Speaking to The Witness while attending the graduation ceremony of the Community Rhino Ambassador Project in the iMfolozi-Hluhluwe Game Reserve yesterday, Mkhize said the organisation suspended a section ranger and member of the anti-rhino poaching unit, both from Hluhluwe section of the park, last week.

The members, he said, are believed to have “lapsed” during the weekend of September 22 in which eight white rhinos were found dead and dehorned.

The Rhino Ambassador programme is a community outreach initiative that will see 100 “ambassadors” deployed into the local communities to do environmental awareness programmes.

He said what was making the programme even more difficult was obtaining the buy-in from end user countries such as Vietnam, whose law enforcement agencies claim to have “bigger problems”.

“We are, through national government, hoping to obtain a memorandum of understanding with the destination countries, but we have to tread carefully. For instance, China will not enter discussions if we state the horn has no medicinal purposes despite scientific evidence that points to the contrary.”

EKZNW still believes if it is allowed to regulate the sale of horns, it could significantly reduce the poaching. The organisation has a seven-ton stockpile in the valuable commodity.

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