The resources South Africa is putting into the front line of the war to at least cut the number of rhino being killed for their horn do not appear to be having any noticeable effect.
Some successes on the arrest front have not stopped the killing. According to the Department of Environment Affairs the country had by yesterday lost 1 020 rhino – 16 more than were killed last year. Earlier this week defenceWeb said the current rate of rhino killing would see last year’s kill total of 1 004 passed before December 31.
With five weeks still to go in 2014, the current kill rate will see at least another 120 dead rhino by year-end and the death tally for the year at around the 1 140 mark.
Speaking ahead of a rhino conservation event on the sidelines of the World Parks Congress in Sydney on Monday this week South African Environment Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, said the country was involved in a war with rhino poachers and it was one “we must win”.
Possibly prophetically she said: “The threat of poaching has continued to escalate while various multi-facetted interventions are being implemented by South Africa. We are concerned that poaching is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade”.
The interventions include the creation of intensive rhino protection zones, translocation of rhino to safe havens within rhino range states, the introduction of new technology and investigating the possibility of legalising trade in rhino horn.
SAnews reports the Department of Environment Affairs as saying addressing the “scourge of rhino poaching was not simple”.
“Killing rhino for their horns is part of the multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade. Government will continue to strengthen holistic and integrated interventions and explore new innovative options to ensure the long term survival of the species. Government is implementing integrated strategic management of the rhinoceros in South Africa to address the ongoing scourge. This includes interventions aimed at disrupting crime syndicates.”
The interventions, according to the government publication, have seen the number of arrests for poaching and related activities increase. A total of 344 alleged rhino poachers, couriers and poaching syndicate members have been arrested in South Africa since the start of 2014.
The Kruger National Park is still the hardest hit by poachers, notwithstanding an increase in ranger numbers as well as assistance from the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), police and the defence industry. Denel Dynamics has one of its Seeker UAVs deployed in the world famous game reserve and the Ichikowitz Foundation has made a helicopter and fixed wing aircraft available to provide extra airborne surveillance.
All these measures have not stopped poachers from killing 672 rhino in Kruger. Limpopo (110), KwaZulu-Natal (84, Mpumalanga (70) and North West (58) are the worst hit provinces when it comes to rhino poaching.