Lack of rhino poaching statistics unacceptable

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Even though Government has rated rhino poaching a priority crime this does not mean information as to the number of animals killed will be regularly made available.

This is the interpretation to be taken from what Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environment Affairs last week. Responding to a question from DA MP Terri Stander she said rhino kill figures would be released “every quarter or so” because her staff cannot spend all their time on rhino poaching.

With the year now more than three months old, the only official rhino kill figure released by Molewa’s department was in January. According to department spokesman, Albi Modise, the country had by then lost 49 rhino to poachers.

Stander maintains the Minister’s response in “unacceptable”.
“To properly monitor poaching, statistics and information needs to be collated on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. This should be happening anyway and, I believe, is being done by Kruger.”

She has posed a total of 20 questions on various aspects of rhino poaching to Molewa which she believes, if properly answered, will assist South Africans in knowing what their government is doing to stop the continued decimation of rhino. Apart from the obvious one of wanting to know the number of rhino killed, she also wants to know what the Department of Environment Affairs has budgeted for combatting particularly rhino poaching in the 2015/16 financial year.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko also finds himself in Stander’s sights with 10 questions to be answered.

Among these is the thorny issue of cross-border pursuit of suspected poachers, particularly into Mozambique.

Information collected by various non-government and conservation organisations point to more than 180 rhino being killed to date this year. Last year saw 1 215 rhino killed with by far the majority of them in the Kruger National Park.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) via the Army and elements of the SA Air Force assists Kruger rangers and other government agencies in bringing suspected rhino poachers to book in the iconic game reserve but it is not the military primary task. Soldiers and airmen are deployed to protect the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe as part of Operation Corona, the national border safeguarding effort the military has taken back from the police on instruction from the Cabinet.