Army set to take on poachers

2009-10-23 12:14

Skukuza - The Kruger National Park (KNP) wants to use military patrols to step up the fight against poaching which has seen 94 rhinos killed across the country this year, its chief executive said on Friday.

"We as a conservation agency and the public at large are paying a high price with these senseless killings of our animals, while some leader of a syndicate is winning the minds and hearts of ordinary and poor members of society to be on the front-line of these evil operations," said KNP chief executive David Mabunda.

"Discussions with the military are already at an advanced stage and an announcement will be made soon on the reintroduction of their patrols in the borders of KNP."

He was speaking at the pass-out parade of 57 new field rangers in Skukuza, who will work with law enforcement agencies to combat poaching.

"Since the beginning of the year, the country in general has lost a total of 94 rhinos, in which 38 was lost in KNP, seven in Gauteng, nine in Limpopo, five in Mpumalanga, 10 in North West, four in Eastern Cape and 21 in KwaZulu-Natal."

Cross-border operations

SA National Parks (SANParks) rangers have arrested 22 poachers in several cases countrywide this year.

"Our cross-border operations which include patrols with members of the South African Police Service, and our counterparts in Mozambique have yielded huge successes," said Mabunda.

Also, SANParks has invested R5.2m in the fight against poaching.

"The funds allocated have been used to acquire amongst others motorbikes, bicycles, a bantam aircraft, to be used in patrols and high tech night vigil surveillance equipment...

"We want to own the night as well, as these senseless fugitives tend to focus their operations at night," said Mabunda.