Rhino kill figures up on last year


Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa maintains South Africa is not losing the war against rhino poaching but statistics show otherwise.

By the end of last month (April), 393 rhino had been killed in the country by poachers – 62 more than in the same period last year. As has become the norm, the world renowned Kruger National Park is still the favoured killing ground of rhino poaching syndicates. Two hundred and ninety rhino have been killed in Kruger to date this year – 78 more than in the first four months of last year.

The statistics are the second batch to be released by her this year and indicate South Africa is losing rhino at a rate of close to four animals a day.

Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on Sunday Molewa is reported has having said: “We are not losing the battle, we are soldiering on as you would have noticed that by the end of April this year a total of 132 people were arrested for rhino-poaching related activities”. Kruger was also the major contributor to the arrest statistics with 62.

The Minister said the increase in arrests related to rhino poaching was “encouraging”.

Last year 1,214 rhino were killed in South Africa – the highest since poaching started increasing rapidly to meet demand from Far Eastern countries, particularly Vietnam. As an example, in 2010 poachers killed 333 rhino (146 in Kruger) and four years later the annual kill has risen to almost four times that amount.

Molewa said the forces ranged against rhino poachers, including SANParks rangers, the military and police, had “upped their technological game” to better be able to arrests suspects before rhino were killed.
“We received an initial grant funding of R254.8 million in 2014 to support anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park. This incorporated the establishment of an air mobility capacity and included the purchase of a first helicopter through grant funding in September 2014.
“Subsequent to the initial grant funding, the Howard G Buffet Foundation granted SANParks an additional R37.7 million to purchase a second Airbus AS350 B3e helicopter to further increase the capacity of flight operations in the KNP. In March SANParks received the second new Airbus AS-350B3e helicopter with night flying capability. It has subsequently been commissioned and has been assisting in the fight against poaching.
“In addition to increasing current flight crew capability of flying at night, the helicopter is expected to improve response time in dealing with contacts and other incidents in the Park. Recently the helicopter assisted in a pre-dusk swoop inside Kruger that netted four suspected poachers as well as a range of poaching equipment.
“The improved aerial support to rangers on the ground and the increasing capacity of the canine unit have assisted in improving the effectiveness of the anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park, with 28 arrests having been effected in April alone,” she said.

The SA National Defence Force, SANParks and the CSIR are piloting and evaluating UAVs as instruments in rhino protection efforts under a range of operational conditions. This is subject to finalisation of arrangements with the Department of Transport.