Poaching: SA wants Interpol's help
Musina - The masterminds behind South Africa's growing rhino poaching scandal could find themselves blacklisted internationally and banned from working in conservation ever again.
This follows the arrests of two more suspects in Musina, Limpopo, on Thursday, bringing to 13 the number of people - including vets - implicated in the racket.
The South African Veterinarian Council (SAVC), South African Veterinarian Association (SAVA) and the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (Phasa) warned on Friday that they will deregister any of their members implicated in poaching.
"We are shocked and saddened that two prominent vets have been arrested for suspected involvement in rhino poaching in South Africa.
"We completely dissociate ourselves from any illegal activities, which we condemn in the strongest possible terms,and would like to repeat that we will do all in our power to assist in bringing culprits to book," said SAVA spokesperson Tracey Phillips.
Her counterpart at the regulatory council, SAVC registrar Hanri Kruger, added: "In fact, if they are found guilty of poaching, we deregister them as vets."
Although Phasa is not a regulatory agency like SAVC, it too adopted a hardline.
"We too are looking at blacklisting any of the professional hunters implicated in this scandal. Poaching, and especially this kind systematic slaughter, is extremely bad for the image of our profession and of South Africa," said Phasa chief executive, Adri Kitshoff.
Phasa expelled the suspected kingpin behind the syndicate, Dawie Groenewald, four years ago on an unrelated breach of the association's code of conduct.
Name and shame
"If any of the other people arrested are Phasa members, they will be immediately suspended. If they are convicted of poaching, or anything related to the case, they will also be expelled. Unfortunately, in South Africa you can still be a professional hunter after losing your Phasa membership," she added.
"But, we will look to see if it is feasible to publicly name and shame them. If so, we would blacklist them not just in South Africa, but also with our affiliate hunting associations across the world."
The international blacklisting will make it difficult for the men to secure hunting concessions or professional hunting contracts.
But, it might not just be hunters and vets implicated in the scandal.
Hawks spokesperson Musa Zondi hinted on Friday that government officials might also be implicated.
When asked whether customs officials or conservation officers were being investigated for possible involvement, he said: "I cannot say, because people hide and burn documents if they know that you are coming ... if you tell the world who you are investigating," he said.
The two suspects arrested on Thursday and linked with Groenewald and the other suspects are professional hunter Gys du Preez, 31, and general farm worker Joseph Maluleka, 39. They were arrested on a farm near Musina.
"They appeared on the same day and were released on bail of R25 000 and R8 000," said Zondi.
Groenewald and the 11 accused were arrested on September 20 for rhino poaching.
Du Preez and Maluleka will appear in the Musina Magistrate's Court again on April 11 next year, along with Groenewald and the other accused.
In the mean time, Zondi said, the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation, which includes police chiefs from 12 Southern African states, was addressing the issue of cross-border poaching and liaising with Interpol.