Government 'cautiously optimistic' following dip in rhino poaching incidents

2017-07-24 22:13
(Alexander Joe, AFP)

(Alexander Joe, AFP)

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Johannesburg – The number of rhino poaching incidents in the country - including in the Kruger National Park - has decreased between January and June this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs confirmed on Monday.

A total of 529 rhino were poached nationally between January and June 2017, down by 13 rhino from last year's 542 during the same period, said Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa in a statement.

The Kruger National Park (KNP) also saw a 34% decrease in the number of rhino carcasses found during the same period. Last year, 354 rhino carcasses were found at the park compared to this year's 243 carcasses in the same period.

SANParks rescued a total of four orphans this year, with a total of 44 in their facilities. Fifteen out of 35 rhinos that were translocated from the KNP to smaller farms were lost in a poaching onslaught last year. No rhino have been translocated this year.

Although there was a slight decrease in rhino killed for their horns, 30 elephants were poached in the park and there was an increase in poaching in other provinces, read the statement.

The department reported that 359 alleged poachers and traffickers had been arrested nationally, while 90 alleged poachers had been arrested inside the park.

112 arrests were made just outside the KNP, with the department hoping to translate these into successful prosecutions, with the help of the Skukuza Regional Court in the Kruger National Park.

The court was established in March 2017 and became operational in April, with the specific aim of curbing poaching.

140kg of rhino horn seized

Since January, 15 cases have ended in the convictions of 22 perpetrators, who were sentenced to a total of 95 years in prison. The Directorate for Priority Crimes (Hawks) has also played an instrumental role in combating rhino poaching, seizing 140kg of rhino horn in nine cases involving 13 suspects, according to the statement.

The department highlighted a number of its short to long-term plans in its anti-poaching efforts, with most being directed at KNP due to the large number of rhino in the park.

Although the decrease in poaching was welcomed, Molewa said that they were treading with "cautious optimism", as more resources, intelligence and technology were needed to tackle rhino and elephant poaching.

Domestic trade draft measures have been developed, with the spotlight falling on exporting rhino horn for non-commercial purposes, personal use, and research and education. Commercial international trade in rhino horn remains prohibited, and a permit is needed for the possession of rhino horn.

In addition, the department sought to ensure that communities also have a clear role to play in rhino conservation, by educating and including them as stakeholders to decrease their involvement with criminals in poaching.

To date, 625 heads of game have been donated to new and upcoming farmers.

The aim is to donate 300 000 to the previously disadvantaged by 2030.

Read more on:    kruger national park  |  edna molewa  |  rhino poaching  |  poaching  |  crime

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