The latest rhino poaching numbers issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs show 102 of this Big Five species have fallen to poachers’ high-powered rifles to date this year.
Dated February 20 the statistics indicate two rhino a day have been killed for horn, slightly up on the annual average of 1,8 a day for the whole of last year.
The Kruger National Park is again the major target for poachers losing 70 rhino in the first seven weeks of the year. Four of these were killed in the park last week.
North West with 11, KwaZulu-Natal with 10, Limpopo with seven and Mpumalanga with four are other provinces where rhino poachers have struck.
On the credit side of the ledger department spokesman Albi Modise said the arrest of six alleged poachers in the 48 hour period preceding the release of statistics brought to total number of arrests this year to 40.
“Three of those arrested are alleged to be rhino horn couriers,” he said.
Kruger and SANParks management have implemented a more militaristic approach to the poaching pandemic since the beginning of the year. Headed by retired SA Army major general Johan Jooste the new approach, while not showing immediate dividends, is expected to contribute significantly in the longer term to keeping rhino away from the sights of poachers’ assault and hunting rifles.
The move has been endorsed by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa who said she was “confident” of a turnaround in poaching losses and an increase in poaching and related arrests.