South African National Parks (SANParks) is once again calling for assistances in the fight against the scourge of rhino poaching particularly in the Kruger National Park (KNP) as it marks World Rhino Day on 22 September.
The observation of World Rhino Day started in 2010 as an opportunity for people all over the world to take a stand against rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn. SANParks Chief Executive Officer Fundisile Mketeni highlighted the World Rhino Day as one of the most significant day in SANParks’ calendar. He maintains that it is never too late to fight against the illicit poaching of our country’s natural heritage.
Mketeni has called on the law enforcement agencies, communities, neighbouring countries and all other stakeholders to join hands in the fight to stop the pillaging of these pre-historic animals. “Our rangers are doing their best inside the park but we need to replicate their efforts outside our parks to disrupt criminal activities. The scourge can be defeated if we all pull together,” said Mketeni.
According to Mketeni the current rhino poaching statistics for the Kruger National Park (KNP) stood at 243 for this year. “Even though there has been a slight decrease in the number of rhino poached nationally, it is still worrying that we are still losing rhinos but the increasing number of successful arrests and steeper sentences meted out by the courts on suspects convicted of poaching activities recently, is encouraging.
“The KNP has arrested 90 suspected poachers this year. This is not only thanks to the increased cooperation from ordinary members of the public but also from corporate South Africa joining the fight against rhino poaching. We need to go out there and expose these selfish people who are undermining our country.” He mentioned that most of these criminals involves in wildlife crime they live in our neighbourhoods and should be identifiable through their lifestyles.
Mketeni urged all South Africans to mobilise themselves and join in the activities planned countrywide. “This is an opportunity to highlight the efforts being made to fight the scourge of rhino poaching around the world and to debunk the myths and reduce the demand for rhino horn. We all need to defend our heritage with everything we have and stand together to stop the killing”.
Meanwhile, joint efforts of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and game rangers have resulted in 18 poaching suspects being arrested in Skhukuza, Hluhluwe, Barberton, KwaMsane, Nongoma and Gluckstadt.
Five suspects were found guilty of poaching and sentenced to a collective 30 years and nine months imprisonment. One suspect was fatally wounded during arrest operations, SANews reports.
Police recovered two rhino horns, eight unlicensed firearms, ammunition, two silencers, a scope, an axe, a knife, two cell phones and two motor vehicles.
“Most of the suspects have since appeared in various courts on charges of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition, possession of dangerous weapon, trespassing, hunting a protected animal, kidnapping, assault, possession of rhino horns and/or possession of suspected stolen properties,” police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said on Friday.
Five other accused were found guilty and sentenced in the Skhukuza Regional Court this week. Maphoyisa Mahlaule was found guilty of hunting a protected animal, possession of unlicensed firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and trespassing. He was sentenced to an effective 20 years imprisonment.
Three accused — Dumisani Mathebula, Paul Julio Mhibiri and Paul Ubisi — were convicted and sentenced to two years for trespassing, two years for possession of an unlicensed firearm, three years for possession of firearm with intent to commit a crime, four years for conspiracy to commit a crime, 18 months for unlawful possession of ammunition and three months for illegal immigration.
Bukani Mbele was found guilty and convicted for illegal hunting and possession of rhino horns. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment, three years for each case.
“The partnership of the police and park rangers in this continuing challenge is vital and has borne results once again,” said Naidoo.