Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the arrest of 10 alleged poachers in the Kruger National Park was yet another example of “successful collaboration” between security forces and SANParks, the national conservation agency.
She pointed out that rhino poaching remained a national priority crime with no less than five government departments and two national agencies part and parcel of the national anti-poaching strategy.
Government departments involved are Correctional Services, Defence, Justice, Police and State Security with the SA Revenue Services (SARS) and SANParks the agencies involved.
“”It is only through the commitment of rangers and security officials working on the ground to combat rhino poaching that we are able to record successes such as these arrests. The dedication and hard work of these officials cannot go unrecognised,” she said in the wake of 12 arrests of suspected rhino poachers in Kruger at the end of last month. The poachers were arrested in three separate incidents and a police officer stationed at Skukuza was also arrested on suspicion of involvement in rhino poaching.
Minister Molewa’s department leads the national integrated strategic management approach to rhino – and other wildlife – poaching and crimes. Among the interventions it makes provision for is management of rhino populations and the creation of intensive protection zones in conservation areas, such as Kruger. This, Molewa sees as allowing limited resources, be they human, financial and/or materiel, to be deployed for maximum protection of the species in areas deemed to be of “greatest importance”.
Rhino poaching in Kruger, South Africa’s flagship national park is on the decline and this is attributed to Molewa’s multi-agency driven operation. Last year saw poachers kill 504 rhino in the park compared to 662 the previous year. Worrying to South Africa’s wildlife conservation agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) is the increase in elephant poaching. 2107 saw 67 elephants killed in Kruger compared to 46 the previous year.
Kruger chief ranger, Ken Maggs who formerly headed SANParks anti-poaching and specialist wildlife crime unit, is on record as saying the national conservation agency working with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and SA Police Service (SAPS) is “on top” of elephant and rhino poaching.
The highest number of elephant killed by poachers was in 1981 when “about a hundred” were lost.
That rhino poaching is on the decline can be seen from official Department of Environmental Affairs national statistics which show the biggest loss was 1 215 in 2014 going down to 1 175 (2015) and then to 1 054 in 2016 and again a slight drop to 1 028 last year.