Poachers kill 150 rhinos in 2012

By Drum Digital
30 March 2012

Poachers have killed 150 rhinos so far this year, the environmental affairs department said on Thursday.

The Kruger National Park had suffered the most, losing 87 rhinos to poachers this year, the department said in a statement.

It said 90 people had been arrested for rhino poaching.

South Africa was not ready to comment on whether it would propose that the international trade in rhino horn be resumed, the department said.

"The internal preparatory processes are not yet finalised."

An inventory of South Africa's rhino horn stockpile had been completed, but it could not be publicly announced because of security risks.

The department said environmental affairs officials met Hong Kong customs officials earlier this month to discuss a rhino horn shipment seized by Hong Kong authorities in November.

South Africa would be able to take DNA samples of the seized goods, to identify the source of the products and to co-operate in the criminal prosecution.

South Africa had spoken to the Chinese government about rhino management, and with Vietnam about the abuse of hunting permits.

Hunting permits would no longer be issued to hunters from countries which did not have the appropriate legislation to monitor the purpose of the trophies, the department said.

It said South African and Mozambican officials had also discussed ways of curbing rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa met Mozambican Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana jun. in January.

Sumbana told Molewa his government had prioritised law enforcement and was considering changes to legislation, the department said.

Under these changes, wildlife poaching in Mozambique would be elevated to a criminal offence, with heavier sentences. It was currently considered damage of property.

Molewa's department said Mozambique would shortly deploy an elite anti-poaching unit to priority areas.

The Kruger National Park's eastern fence, where South Africa borders Mozambique, was too expensive and difficult to maintain.

Instead, the government was considering setting up a buffer zone between the park and the private reserves and farms in Mozambique.

This would be similar to the western boundary, where private game reserves border the park.

Mozambican and South African authorities were already planning this, the department said.

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