The chances of a rhino poacher being caught in the Kruger National Park are slim, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police heard during an oversight visit to Mpumalanga.
The committee was told by retired SA Army general Johan Jooste, who heads SANParks’ anti-poaching operations, that the only measure of success in ongoing efforts to stop poaching was for the number of rhinos killed to “drastically reduce”.
The Department of Environmental Affairs is no longer issuing monthly statistics of rhino kills and arrests in connection with poaching as it did in previous years. In April Minister Edna Molewa said 393 rhinos had been killed by poachers in the first four months of the year. Since then there have been no official statistics released by her department but unofficial statistics kept and maintained by a reputable non-government organisation show 595 rhinos killed by June 30.
The report on the February visit, which also saw committee members call on senior police management in Mpumalanga as well as visit border posts and police stations, was tabled in Parliament last week.
Jooste told committee members that rangers and other law enforcement agencies operating in Kruger, including the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), were facing a “poacher force” estimated to be about 5,000 strong that worked both in and outside the world renowned game reserve.
The Portfolio Committee report states all Kruger Park rangers have undergone integrity testing with 1,376 tests conducted. This is because, as the report has it, “corruption is a major problem affecting the Kruger National Park, but it is not uncontrollable”.
Kruger is experimenting with aerial surveillance, including unmanned aerial vehicles and hot air balloons, as further measures to provide information on where suspected poachers are in a further effort to stop the slaughter. SANParks, the national conservation agency, is also working with Mozambican authorities to curb poaching and arrest perpetrators.