Indications are South Africa did not reach the four figure mark of rhino killed by poachers last year.
Latest information from the Department of Environment Affairs, issued on December 19, shows 946 rhino were killed. This works out at just over 2,67 animals a day and taking the same kill rate for the final 12 days of the year into account would have seen 978 fall to high-powered hunting rifles and military assault rifles commonly carried by poachers.
On the positive side of the ledger, arrests of poaching suspects totalled 330. This is 63 more than arrested during the previous year with 127 arrests in the Kruger National Park, by far the “preferred” site for rhino poachers. The total number of arrests in connection with rhino poaching during 2012 was 267.
Hopes are high that arrests will increase this year with the imminent signing of a memorandum of understanding between South Africa and Mozambique. This could pave the way for hot pursuit by the Kruger ranger corps and the park’s specialist anti-poaching unit as well as others involved in in the counter-poaching effort, including the SA Army and SA Air Force, without creating international incidents.
Hot pursuit was first mooted as an option to counter the ever increasing levels of poaching in the iconic game reserve last August by retired SA Army general Johan Jooste, who heads SANParks anti-poaching efforts.
In November former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano said 70% of the rhinos killed in South Africa fell to rifles wielded by Mozambicans. This is in line with arrests in connection with rhino poaching, which show 68% of those arrested are from South Africa’s eastern neighbour.
Other efforts to curb poaching include repairing portions of the boundary fence between Kruger and Mozambique. Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told a December rhino workshop in Skukuza that fences separating Mozambican conservancies from Kruger in the southern part of the park were going to be repaired. This follows an increase in the number of poaching incursions into that part of Kruger.