Tucked away in Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa’s budget vote address last week was a sentence that will boost the efforts of those involved in the fight against rhino poaching in South Africa.
“An amount of R8 million from the Asset Forfeiture Unit was handed to SANParks as part of criminal proceedings against a member of a poaching syndicate who was arrested during the course of the year,” the Minister told Parliament when she presented her budget vote.
This money will go into the national conservation agency’s budget and be utilised in the ongoing battle against rhino poachers.
Another indication government is willing to commit more funding to the fight against rhino poaching was her allocation of R103 million from the departmental budget over the next two financial years for “the sole purpose of combatting rhino poaching”.
In her address to Members of Parliament, Molewa said poaching remained the single biggest threat to South Africa’s rhino population, estimated at around the 21 000 mark.
“Because it is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade, addressing the scourge is not simple. That is why we will continue to strengthen holistic and integrated interventions and explore new innovative options to ensure the long term survival of the species.
“Our conservation efforts have been working,” she said.
This has seen 136 suspects arrested in the first six months of this year – an increase on the 134 arrests over the same period last year.
Latest statistics released by Molewa’s department show 558 rhinos have been killed by poachers this year with the Kruger National Park the worst hit, losing 351.
South African courts are also hitting those convicted of rhino poaching harder. Earlier this month a poacher was sentenced to 77 years behind bars after he was convicted on charges of killing three rhinos in Kruger as well as murder and the possession of illegal weapons.