9 July 2013
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe got first-hand experience of a hi-tech initiative to combat rhino poaching in South Africa on Friday.
Motlanthe, accompanied by Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, visited Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, where he helped to take DNA samples and insert electronic microchips in the horns of two white rhino and a black rhino, SABC News reported on the weekend.
The Rhino DNA Index System (RHoDIS) based at the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort is part of an initiative to create a DNA database of all of rhinos in South Africa to enable successful prosecutions for poaching.
The database actively supports the South African Police Service, conservation authorities such as South African National Parks (SANParks), and private rhino owners in building a shared asset register of rhinos in the country.
“If a rhino gets poached and some of the body parts, like the horns, get exported to other countries, we can trace it all the way back if we’ve done a DNA test,” veterinary doctor Johan Joubert told SABC News.
Motlanthe said technology was an important part of the battle against poaching.
“But I think the main targets ought to be the syndicates that are behind the poaching,” he told SABC News. “It’s almost like dealing with drug cartels. There is no point in apprehending the small pushers. It’s always helpful to target the main brains behind the operation.”
Last month, the Department of Environmental Affairs reported that 446 rhinos had so far been poached across the country in 2013, while 129 alleged rhino poachers have been arrested.
The public is urged to report incidents of poaching and tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211.