Poachers’ border escape route looks set to close


SANParks anti-poaching brains trust, led by retired SA Army general Johan Jooste, has finished work on another strategy to stop further slaughter of rhino in the Kruger National Park.

Dubbed Operation Hot Pursuit it, as the name implies, will see rangers, soldiers and others involved in the ongoing low-intensity war against rhino poachers cross into Mozambique in pursuit of known poachers or those suspected of being involved in the decimation of the park’s rhino population.

Hot Pursuit was discussed by South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and her Mozambican counterpart Alcinda Abreu during a meeting late last month.

The Hot Pursuit strategy has been forwarded to SANParks head office for approval after which it will go to the Minister’s office for final approval and implementation SANParks spokesman Ike Phaahla said.

He said the strategy would be implemented in conjunction with Mozambican nature conservation authorities.

Hot Pursuit comes in the wake of Jooste saying “law enforcement should not be side-lined by international borders”.

With up to 90% of poachers in the iconic game reserve reportedly from Mozambique they, Jooste told a Johannesburg daily paper, “they (poachers) run across the border and fire victory shots. A poacher will sit in sight of a ranger and smoke because rangers dare not cross that line (the border)”.
“Should a SANParks official or a soldier shoot a poacher across the border it would create an international incident and might be seen as an act of war.”

The latest rhino death toll issued by the Department of Environment affairs show 553 have fallen to poachers’ high-powered hunting rifles in the first seven months of the year. By far the majority of the killing – 345 – has been in Kruger. This is only 80 less than were killed in the park in 1012.