National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega has confirmed hot pursuit has been added to the arsenal available for South African law enforcement to use against suspected rhino poachers.
The hot pursuit concept was put to SANParks management by retired SA Army general Johan Jooste, commanding officer special projects for the national conservation agency, 12 months ago. He indicated at the time there would have to be government to government contact between South Africa and Mozambique to make provision for rangers, soldiers and other law enforcement agency staff deployed as part of Operation Rhino to cross the border on the trail of poaching suspects.
At the time he indicated clearance was needed to prevent “international incidents”.
The Department of Environment Affairs met with its Mozambican counterpart to discuss implementation of a memorandum of understanding on various conservation aspects but no public mention was made of any approval for hot pursuit.
Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday, Phiyega is reported as having said: “Yes, we have a hot pursuit agreement meaning that when somebody crosses the border we do have an agreement with Mozambique to follow through”.
She said “hot pursuits” were happening all the time but declined to give details.
Phiyega said a team of detectives, trained in wildlife crime investigation and supported by forensics experts, the SAPS airwing, its flying squad and dog unit, under the command of Lieutenant General Vineshkumar Moonoo, will assist SANParks with investigations into rhino poaching.
Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said Cabinet had approved a decision on the “issue of rhino translocation”.
This would see the creation of protected rhino strongholds in the Kruger National Park, the prime hunting ground for rhino poachers, and moving up to 500 rhino out of Kruger to areas where poaching activity is minimal. This could include neighbouring countries such as Botswana as well as other national parks or provincial game reserves and private game farms.
The latest rhino kill statistics released at the beginning of this month show 618 killed this year with Kruger accounting for by far the majority – 400.
The past weekend’s Super Moon, with the celestial body at its closest to Earth with either a new or full moon, was put to good use by Kruger anti-poaching specialists.
“Six incidents were reported during a full moon operational deployment with members of the ranger corps and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) arresting six suspects, recovering three high calibre hunting rifles, poaching equipment and a set of rhino horns,” SANParks spokesman Rey Thakhuli said.