2014 rhino toll 1 215

Cape Town - The annual number of rhino poached rose to 1 215 last year, prompting the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to call for strategic action to confront the crisis.

Releasing the figure, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa acknowledged that more needed to be done to fight poaching.

"In the light of the increased poaching numbers, it is clear that existing interventions need to be strengthened," Molewa told a media briefing in Pretoria.

A break down of the statistics showed that 827 rhino were poached in the Kruger National Park and one in the Mapungubwe National Park. Provincial trends in terms of poaching continued with Limpopo still suffering the highest losses with 110 rhino, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 99 and Mpumalanga with 83.

In North West 65 rhino were poached last year. In the Eastern Cape 15 and in Gauteng five.

Molewa said that so far this year 49 rhino had been poached countrywide. Of those 29 were killed in the Kruger park.

The number of poachers arrested rose to 386 last year, the minister said, adding that she believed government's integrated anti-poaching plan was bearing fruit because the increase in the rate of poaching had slowed since 2012.

WWF said the figures showed a 21% increase in poaching from 2013 and confirmed that Kruger National Park had remained the epicentre of the scourge.

It noted that law enforcement plans were having an impact but said continued targeted efforts were required.

"There is no single solution to this complex global crisis", Jo Shaw, the rhino programme manager for WWF SA, said in a statement.

"In 2015, we need to keep working together on the strategic interventions which will have the greatest impact and result in greatest benefits for our rhinos".

Molewa said her department and the Hawks were involved in conceptualising a project through the Interpol Wildlife Crime Working Group with input from 15 other countries, including Vietnam, China and Mozambique.

The minister said an implementation plan that would put into practice co-operation on anti-poaching measures with Mozambique was ready to be signed.

The plan includes training and equipping more rangers, resettling three villages, deploying more border guards and sharing information with Mozambican police, who she said had carried out a high number of arrests inside their country.

Molewa said the department was working with the state security services to fast-track vetting of members of a committee of inquiry she had tasked with exploring the possibility of legalising trade in rhino horn as a means of combating poaching.

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