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While investigations into the poaching of three rhinos that were killed in four days earlier this month have yet to yield any arrests, authorities have started to crack down on other links in the chain of the illegal animal trade.
The rhinos, poached at Hluhluwe and Imfolozi, brought the tally of rhinos poached in the province this year to 32, according to KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife.
Operation Skhumba (skin, in Zulu), a national enforcement blitz by the Green Scorpions, has targeted the tannery and taxidermy industries in the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Western Cape provinces, where about 28 facilities were inspected.
The Department of Environmental Affairs said in a statement that the raids were executed by the Green Scorpions amid an increase in the number of rhinos poached in SA, with the figure since the beginning of this year now standing at 339, and a total of 192 individuals arrested in connection with rhino poaching.
According to the amended norms and standards, said department spokesman Albi Modise, rhino horns from trophy hunts were expected to be transported by a duly authorised person from the address where the hunt took place directly to a taxidermist for processing and export.
The permit authorising the hunt and a copy of the professional hunting register needed to accompany all rhino products when being transported between destinations.
Also, taxidermies receiving rhino horns are legally required to report this to provincial conservation bodies.
“Taxidermies are… required to keep a register detailing the date of receipt of the rhino horns, their weight, micro-chip numbers as well as the numbers of the hunting permit, transport permit and professional hunting register. This register must be made available to the issuing authority for inspection upon request.”
Meanwhile, the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association this week sent out an appeal to the public, NGOs and the corporate sector to blow the whistle on pseudo-campaigns and scams that collect money on the pretext that these funds would be used to protect rhinos against poaching.