Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu told Parliament a dedicated special investigation unit under the command of the SA Police Service’s Detective Services is now concentrating on rhino poaching.
“The unit, located within the SAPS Cross-border Unit, operates under the operational agreement between the Southern African Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPPCO) member states,” she said adding all operational members of the unit are situated at and operating on border lines.
While the arrest of suspected rhino poachers was high on the priority list of this unit it also worked in areas such as vehicle and stock theft and human trafficking as well as other transnational crimes.
Environment Minister Edna Molewa, speaking during the same debate on the importance of rhino as part of South Africa’s natural heritage, said a national rhino operations centre became operational in the Kruger National Park on September 1.
“It will centralise and strengthen co-ordination of anti-poaching operations and activities under the leadership of the SAPS,” she told the National Assembly.
Along with the just instituted operations centre, Molewa said collaboration with neighbouring countries as well as rhino horn end user countries formed part of a joint management strategy to ensure the survival of the rhino.
This has seen memoranda of understanding entered into with China, Mozambique and Vietnam for, among others, co-operation in biodiversity management and conservation. Botswana, Cambodia, Tanzania and Thailand are the next countries South Africa will approach as part of its overall rhino management strategy.
In the first seven months of this year poachers have diminished South Africa’s rhino population by 618, with 400 killed in Kruger.