The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has apprehended, arrested or killed 188 suspected poachers in the Kruger National Park (KNP) since 2010 as part of its border security and counter-poaching duties, it has been revealed.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula gave the figures late last month in response to a parliamentary question posed by Thomas Zwelakhe Hadebe, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party’s Shadow Minister for Environmental Affairs.
According to figures provided by the minister, between 2010 and 2018 a total of 31 poachers were apprehended, 20 wounded, 27 killed and 110 arrested for a total of 188.
2012 was the busiest year, with eight poachers apprehended, three wounded, seven killed and 33 arrested. Next busies was 2014 with 14 apprehended, four wounded, two killed and 19 arrested. 22 poachers were arrested, five wounded and two killed in 2016.
Interdictions slowed in 2017, with seven poachers killed or apprehended. So far in 2018, one poacher has been killed and two arrested by the SANDF in the Kruger National Park.
Hadebe also requested numbers on illegal immigrants apprehended and successful prosecutions but Mapisa-Nqakula stated that as illegal immigrants and poachers are handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS) immediately, she does not have these statistics.
The SANDF has been in the Kruger National Park since 2010 primarily on Operation Corona border safeguarding duties. Specialist military units including paratroopers as well as normal infantry troops are deployed in the KNP on a six-month rotation and they work closely with the dog unit, rangers, and police.
Joint efforts between SANParks and the SANDF have seen decreased poaching activity on the border with Mozambique, where 11% of elephant poachers originate from. KNP mission area manager Mbongeni Tukela last year said that 60% of incursions into Kruger now originated in South Africa, with 11% through Mozambique’s Parque Nacional do Limpopo (PNL) and 29% through Mozambican conservancies. There were some 3 700 incursions into the Kruger National Park in 2017.
The SAPS together with the SANDF have arrested over 900 suspected poachers in the Kruger National Park between 2011 and 2016, and 139 in 2017.
As a result of concerted efforts, rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park has declined, but elephant poaching is on the rise. According to SANParks, 504 rhinos and 67 elephants were killed due to poaching in the KNP in 2017, indicating the rhino poaching rate has declined by 20% – in 2016, 662 rhinos were killed and 46 elephants slaughtered. The statistics were even worse in 2015 when 826 rhinos were killed in the KNP.