Of the 13 arrests made by the Hawks, five were Chinese nationals and eight were South Africans
MORE than 60.92kg of confiscated rhino horn has been linked to poaching crime scenes in KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.
This was announced by the Department of Environmental Affairs, which also expressed concern that while rhino poaching numbers are coming down, the prevalence of personnel being arrested for rhino poaching offences is on the increase.
In an update on the implementation of the integrated strategic management of rhino on Friday, the department said in addition to the arrests affected by Operation Rhino 9, a total of 13 wildlife traffickers were arrested between January 1 and August 31 this year.
Of the 13 arrests made by the Hawks, five were Chinese nationals and eight were South Africans.
“It is still of concern that our own personnel are being arrested for rhino poaching-related offences. Since January, four officials have been arrested by SANParks enforcement staff in the Kruger National Park for poaching-related offences. These include members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF),” said the department in a statement.
Since SANParks introduced integrity management throughout the organisation to support ongoing anti-poaching efforts, a number of officials have been dismissed following disciplinary processes. A number of these have also faced criminal charges.
For the Kruger National Park, the number of arrests of alleged poachers stands at 162 for the period January 1 to August 31, while a total of 145 weapons were seized in rhino-related incidents both inside and outside the park. The park also confiscated a total of 83 rhino horn in the same period.
The department noted that one of the challenges facing law enforcement when coming to poaching-related offences is that suspected kingpins and syndicate members hide and even dispose of the proceeds of their alleged activities “as a result of lengthy trial delays”.
A number of rhino poaching-related cases are now being dealt with by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
There are currently 530 rhino poaching-related cases on the court roll involving 750 accused and 1 738 charges, with close to 300 of these cases being trial ready.
The department said the number of rhinos being poached is on the decline compared to the same time last year.
All of the country’s nine provinces had experienced dramatic declines in rhino poaching. Between January 1 and August 31 this year 508 rhino were poached, compared to 691 for the same period in 2017.