Last year, for the first time since rhino poaching records have been kept, South Africa lost over 1 000 of this Big Five species.
In line with this trend, 2014 has not started off well, with 37 rhinos killed by poachers in the first 17 days of the year – more than two a day.
The total of 1 004 rhinos killed last year represents 2.75 animals a day and while arrests in connection with poaching for last year are up on 2012, the arrest rate works out at less than a poacher a day.
The iconic Kruger National Park, on South Africa’s eastern border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe, remains the preferred target of poachers evidenced by both the rhinos killed and arrests in connection with poaching.
Last year Kruger lost 606 rhinos – well over half of the total killed nationally – and was also the site of 133 arrests, just less than half the national arrest figure.
Efforts to halt poaching by particularly Mozambicans have been under discussion by South African Department of Environment Affairs officials and their counterparts in Maputo. In line with the high priority rating given to rhino poaching, Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa also had discussion with her Mozambican counterpart. This set the stage for a memorandum of understanding to be entered into between the two countries. It will concentrate, but not be limited to, rhino poaching, with other aspects of environmental protection and species conservation being jointly addressed.
The memorandum was due to have been signed this month but the department said today it had been postponed. “No alternative date has yet been finalised,” Eleanor Momberg, Rhino Communications Manager at the Department of Environmental Affairs told defenceWeb.
Hopes are high within the conservation fraternity, including those tasked with halting the slaughter of Kruger National Park rhinos, that the memorandum will make provision for some form of cross border hot pursuit. This was proposed by retired Army general Johan Jooste as part of an overall plan to cut poaching in the world-famous game reserve, in a presentation to the SANParks board last year.