The possible withdrawal of certain military elements from the Kruger National Park due to a lack of finance is yet another indicator government is failing to treat rhino poaching as a priority crime.
This allegation comes from opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party MP Terri Stander, deputy shadow environmental affairs minister, following an oversight visit to the world-renowned game reserve.
“During the visit the DA learnt that joint forces (SA National Defence Force, SA Police Service and the park’s ranger corps) had spent large sums of money to set up operations and gained valuable insights into poaching activities. Withdrawing even elements of these, as we heard, would be grossly irresponsible,” she said.
The visit came at almost the same time as Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa announced details of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)/GEF rhino project. This will see a strengthening of law enforcement capabilities to combat wildlife poaching using forensic technology, information sharing and analysis as well as international co-operation to tackle the whole trafficking chain, from poacher to end user.
Earlier this week SANParks said six suspected rhino poachers were arrested in Kruger and made more information available about its plan to move some 500 rhinos out of the game reserve. This is part of the national conservation agency’s rhino management strategy. Between 1997 and last year this management option saw 1 450 rhino moved out of Kruger.
“Relocation is the core of our approach – not only to combat poaching but to ensure continued growth of South Africa’s rhino population,” SANParks chairman Kuseni Dlamini said.
As of mid-September poachers had killed 787 rhinos, equating to more than three animals a day. Kruger remains the preferred hunting ground of poachers and the latest statistics show 503 rhinos have been killed in the iconic game reserve so far this year. Arrests in connection with poaching nationally number 232 with 81 of them being made in Kruger.