Rhino horn stolen from NW Parks head office

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Would-be poachers in the North West appear to have changed track into wildlife product thieves, evidenced by the illegal removal of over 50 rhino horns from the provincial parks and tourism board’s Mafikeng head office.

It is alleged the thieves evaded all security and located vault keys which they used to enter the vault. “They then allegedly stole 51 horns. After being called, SAPS (SA Police Service) allegedly took eight hours to arrive, delaying any immediate stop and search operations,” a Democratic Alliance (DA) statement has it.

“The incident puts paid to repeated statements that there is no pilfering of rhino horn stockpiles,” the statement has Dave Bryant (shadow forestry, fisheries and environment minister) and Hannah Winkler (Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Portfolio Committee member saying.

“It is hard to believe this operation could have been conducted without sophisticated knowledge and the involvement of insiders. The DA has been calling for urgent and immediate implementation of polygraph testing for parks staff. This is a prime example of a case where this is warranted.”

Of the 51 horns stolen, 14 were from adult animals with the remainder from dehorning operations. This incident not only represents a significant loss of these “magnificent creatures but also highlights the dire need for enhanced security measures to protect rhino stockpiles,” according to the statement.

“Rhino are iconic and an endangered species vital in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. The loss of 51 horns is a devastating blow to conservation efforts and wildlife preservation. Swift and decisive action is needed to prevent similar incidents in future.”

They want Barbara Creecy, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s environment point person, to present a detailed plan outlining enhanced security measures for safeguarding rhino horn stockpiles nationally. She must also, they say, “provide transparency” on the theft, including a comprehensive account of steps being taken to recover stolen horns and bring perpetrators to justice.