Mpumalanga MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism Norman Mokoena wants harsher action against rhino poachers. He says the Constitution clearly states that South Africans had a collective responsibility to protect the country’s fauna and flora.
“I call upon law enforcement agencies to deal very harshly with anyone caught poaching any of our rhinos, or any other endangered species,” he says. “This includes rhino and other endangered species. We have an obligation towards future generations to protect these species at all costs,” he said according to the state BuaNews agency.
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa last week released figures showing 51 rhinos have been poached across the country so far this year. Of these, 33 were poached in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
Mokoena thanked members of the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit for their fight against poaching. “Greed and the urge to make a quick buck at the expense of our rhinos will not be tolerated. The law must take its course and these cruel people should receive the harshest sentence ever given in South Africa,” warned Mokoena.
It has been widely reported that powerful crime syndicates are behind the rhino killings, fuelled by demand for horns in Vietnam and China, where horns are ground up and used in traditional medicine – often as aphrodisiacs. According to South African National Parks (SANParks), in 2010 alone, 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. In 2009, 122 rhinos were killed in the country, compared to only 13 that were poached in 2007, BuaNews said.
Some media reports have suggested that Mozambican nationals are crossing from that country into the east of the vast park to poach the animals, taking advantage of the open border created when the fences were removed to create a transfrontier park incorporating the KNP and sister parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The South African National Defence Force will from next month deploy an infantry company into the KNP to re-assert South African sovereignty along the border line. Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu have said this will include action against poachers. It is known Special Forces, with specialist surveillance equipment, also deployed in the KNP last year to support park rangers in arresting poachers.