23 January 2015
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) secured a conviction rate of 61% in criminal cases related to rhino poaching during the 2013/14 financial year, according to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
Speaking on 22 January on measures being taken to combat rhino poaching in South Africa, Molewa said the number of arrested alleged poachers, couriers and syndicate members had risen from 343 in 2013 to 386 in 2014.
South Africa is home to the largest population of rhino in the world. Last year, a total of 174 alleged rhino poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park and 212 in the rest of the country.
In December, 16 members of a rhino horn smuggling syndicate in Prague, Czech Republic, were arrested.
Molewa said the Czech arrests were the successful outcome of cross-border co- operation between affected countries as well as transit and end user countries to tackle the illicit trade in rhino horn.
“Despite the successes. illicit trade in rhino horn undermines our efforts. During 2014, 1 215 rhino were killed. This is a rise in the number of poached rhino from 1 004 in 2013.”
In 2014, there was increased collaboration between provincial, national and international law-enforcement agencies, as well as the criminal justice system and prosecution service.
“We are stepping up our use of technologically advanced methods to reinforce the protection of the rhino,” she said. “We have stepped up collation of proactive intelligence from multiple agencies working to combat rhino poaching.”
The Department of Environmental Affairs was also working on improving crime scene management and to date, teams of officials had undergone intensive training.
Translocation of rhino
In addition, the department’s translocation programme was on-going and continued to be a success.
In August, Molewa announced that rhinos would be translocated from areas in South Africa where they were under threat to more secure locations.
“In the last quarter, 56 rhino have already been moved out of poaching hotspots and translocated from certain areas within the Kruger National Park to an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) as well as other more secure areas.”
An IPZ is an area where additional resources are deployed to ensure better protection for the rhino.
“On top of this, approximately 100 rhino have been translocated to neighbouring states during 2014, through both private partnerships and government initiatives.”
She said translocation was aimed at creating rhino strongholds, areas where rhino could cost-effectively be protected while applying conservation husbandry to maximise the population.
A number of the translocated animals had been collared so that their movements could be monitored. None of the animals moved to an IPZ had been poached.
Legalising horn trade
Molewa said she had established a committee of inquiry to look into the issue of whether or not to legalise trade in rhino horn.
In addition, 150 new and specially trained and equipped border guards were being deployed all along the border with Mozambique.
South Africa and other countries affected by rhino poaching could not win the fight alone, she stressed. “I call on our partners and indeed on all South Africans to work with us in winning this fight, all the while working alongside communities in the management and ownership of wildlife. This is our very precious heritage.”