Hot pursuit of poachers could be on the way

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By the end of January the man heading SANParks anti-poaching operations should know whether his men will be given the hot pursuit option into Mozambique when tracking suspected rhino poachers.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa expects a memorandum of understanding between Mozambique and South Africa to be signed by then. This, she told a rhino poaching workshop in Skukuza, was to meet the deadline set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) for South Africa’s eastern neighbour and Vietnam to report on concrete legislative and other measures to curb rhino poaching.

Retired South African Army General Johan Jooste included hot pursuit when he presented a strategy to curb rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park to SANParks management in August. He wants approval for rangers, soldiers and other government agencies to track suspected poachers across the international border without fear of reprisal.

As matters stand currently any cross-border follow-up on rhino or other poaching could lead to an international incident.

Molewa has visited Mozambique to discuss measures aimed at minimising the loss of rhinos in South Africa’s iconic game reserve to poachers.

That Mozambique is the origin of the majority of poachers entering Kruger was confirmed last month by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano. Speaking at the launch of a wildlife preservation foundation in Maputo, he said 70% of rhino killing in South Africa could be attributed to Mozambicans. This is borne out by South African arrest figures in connection with cases of suspected rhino poaching which show that 68% are from Mozambique.

Molewa told the workshop, convened under the auspices of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on water and environmental affairs, that both countries have engaged in “concrete measures to stamp out the scourge (of rhino poaching)” since her visit to Maputo.

According to her “portions of the boundary fence between South Africa and Mozambique have been repaired and, in some instances, re-erected following damage caused during serious flooding earlier this year”.

She also told workshop delegates maintenance work is currently being done on parts of the fence that have fallen into a state of neglect.
“A portion of the fence in the south – between Kruger and conservancies on the Mozambican side of the border – is also to be restored following an increase in the number of poaching incursions from that area.”

The bilateral discussions between South Africa and Mozambique have had another positive spin-off. This coming Monday the first group of a specially trained anti-poaching ranger corps will move into the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. They will concentrate in preventing infiltration of poachers to Kruger from the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

In Gaborone, Botswana, an African Elephant Summit has been told up to 20% of the continent’s elephant population could be taken out by poachers in the next decade if poaching continues at present rates.

According to CITES an estimated 22 000 elephants have been killed this year across the continent. The Summit is seeking agreement “at the highest political level” to end the illegal ivory trade and secure viable elephant populations across Africa. It sees a strengthening of national laws on wildlife crime and improved inter-state co-operation as key to this.