Rhino poaching continues unabated with animals being lost at the rate of more than two a day, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Environment Affairs.
On the plus side, arrests of suspected poachers as well as others involved in the rhino horn supply chain now stand at 310 – 43 more than last year’s total number of arrests.
With 891 rhino dead, 548 of them in the Kruger National Park, retired SA Army major general Johan Jooste, now heading up SANParks anti-poaching operations, was earlier this week reported as saying: “The war against rhino poaching is not yet won, but we can reduce the figure; it’s an ongoing process”.
Speaking in Nelspruit, he said an increase in intelligence operations was a major driver of his aim to cut poaching numbers by 20% a year.
“The war against poaching will not only be won in the bush, the law needs to take its course as well when it comes to prosecuting syndicates.”
The Department of Environment Affairs’ latest rhino statics show 891 rhinos have been killed by poachers this year – 223 more than last year. Five hundred and forty-eight, well over half, have fallen to poachers’ high-powered hunting rifles in Kruger which also has the highest arrest rate – 117 – of poachers.
If poaching continues at the present rate the country could lose 979 rhinos by December 31.
One of SANParks media spokesmen, Ike Phaahla, is on record as saying the Army has contributed “significantly” to the fighting against poachers in Kruger.
“If it wasn’t for the Army we would have no rhino in the park by now and rangers would have had a difficult time keeping up with poachers’ paramilitary tactics.”
Both full-time and Reserve Force units have been deployed in Kruger as part of the national border protection initiative Operation Corona since 2010. A secondary tasking has been and still is to assist the ranger corps and other law enforcement agencies in preventing poaching and apprehending those responsible.
A call by previous Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for more involvement in counter-poaching operations from the defence industry has seen Denel and the Paramount Group commit resources.
Denel Dynamics has deployed a Seeker UAV and support crew to Kruger, while a Seabird Seeker reconnaissance aircraft from Paramount Group head Ivor Ichikowitz provides extra eyes in the sky on a 24/7 basis.