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17 rhinos slaughtered in Province

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Minister of Environmental Affairs reports a decrease in rhino poaching

KILLED: While the Minister of Environmental Affairs announced a decrease in poaching, it still remains a concern. Picture: Susan Scott

WHILE the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, earlier this week reported a “slight decrease” in the number of rhinos being poached in the country between January and June this year, her department has confirmed that 17 rhinos have been killed in the Northern Cape so far.

No arrests have been made yet in connection with the slaughter of eight white rhinos on a farm near Kimberley in June or the poaching of another two white rhinos that were found on a private game reserve near Colesburg earlier this month.

Police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, stated that the Northern Cape Stock Theft Unit was investigating two cases of rhino poaching in the Frances Baard cluster.

“The police are following leads to track down the suspects. We urge members of the public to share any information that can assist us with the investigation by contacting the investigating officer, Detective Warrant Officer Martin Coetzee on 082 454 3540.”

While delivering a report on the state of rhino poaching, Molewa said 529 rhinos were poached between January and June this year, compared to 542 for the same period during 2016.

“This represents a decrease of 13 rhinos while 243 rhino carcasses were found at the Kruger National Park compared to 354 last year.

“It is with concern that we also report that in 2017, 30 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park. The interventions being implemented to counter rhino poaching are also used to respond to this emerging threat.

It is clear that more resources are required to address the challenge of both rhino and elephant poaching.”

She said significant improvements had been made in anti-poaching and anti-trafficking initiatives.

“Because we are battling a threat on so many fronts and spread across the entire country, this has necessitated that almost the entire ranger corps have been converted to anti-poaching units. They are well trained and are being supported by canine units, small air wings, and the relevant technology.”

She said the increased law enforcement measures implemented around the Kruger National Park had led to a decrease in poaching incidents.

“The Hawks are working in close co-operation with other government departments in the arrest and seizure of rhino horn traffickers and dismantling of the trafficking networks.”

Molewa indicated that a total of 359 alleged poachers and traffickers have been arrested across the country.

The number of arrests inside the Kruger National Park totalled 90 alleged poachers with 112 being arrested adjacent to the Kruger National Park.”

She added that South Africa had formally requested to obtain DNA samples from illegally traded horn confiscated in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique and the Netherlands.

“These samples will assist in linking such seizures to poaching incidents, providing important information to assist with further investigations.”

Molewa stated that the department had developed a set of draft regulatory measures, focusing primarily on the domestic trade, the export of rhino horn for non-commercial purposes, such as personal use, hunting trophies, research or education and training.

“In order to facilitate the national coordination of permits for the domestic trade in rhino horn, I will be the issuing authority for permit applications relating to the selling and buying of rhino horn within the borders of the country. However, this arrangement is dependent on the written agreement of MECs responsible for the conservation of biodiversity in the nine provinces.”

She pointed out that the commercial international trade of rhino horn remained “strictly prohibited” where rhino poaching has escalated into a national priority crime.

“The department’s Environmental Management Inspectors and provincial conservation departments will continue to monitor compliance with the relevant regulations and requirements.”