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Durban - The army has been sent to the Swaziland and Mozambique borders to stop rhino poachers from moving between those countries and South Africa, Ezemvelo KZN chief executive Bandile Mkhize said on Tuesday.
He was addressing the province’s conservation portfolio committee on the rhino poaching crisis at a meeting in Durban.
So far, 570 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year and, of those, 58 were in KZN.
At the weekend, eight rhinos died when poachers hit a reserve in North West. The Hawks arrested three men – one a park ranger – at their homes in Lethabo township near Brits on Tuesday.
The attack prompted North West Premier Thandi Modise to ask that the army step in as conservation bodies had neither the resources nor the skill to stop the massacre and extinction of one of South Africa’s Big Five.
This call has reverberated across South Africa as conservationists and wildlife authorities despair of stopping the killings.
Mkhize said on Tuesday
that Ezemvelo was also involved in discussions with the army on the technological side of the rhino war.
KZN MEC Meshack Radebe, the political head of conservation, told Tuesday’s meeting that the fight to stop poaching was about the country’s heritage.
“We need to mobilise and sensitise all stakeholders, amakhosi, headmen, councillors and the rural communities about this war and the threat to our heritage. It is clear, given the move involved here, that poachers are prepared to kill and die for these horns,” said Radebe.
IFP MPL Inkosi Ngamizizwe Madlala said: “I am concerned that the killing of eight rhinos in North West will encourage these thugs here in KwaZulu-Natal to be more daring in their criminal deeds. We need to work hard to put an end to this scourge.”
The plan tabled by Ezemvelo will see the formation of a highly specialised task force for reaction and deployment in poaching hotspots. This strategy would be implemented through “good intelligence” rather than reactive measures, said Mkhize.
Part of the plan was for the agency to secure adequate funding and manpower to refocus its resources towards ensuring staff were trained.
“We have reintroduced a helicopter patrol at Hluhluwe/iMfolozi Park with a plan for expansion into other protected areas. A highly qualified information network for covert operations has been appointed and, through structured investigation between Ezemvelo and organised-crime units, we have managed to arrest two syndicates in Zululand,” said Mkhize.
Six new Land Cruisers had been ordered for rhino reserves and the agency had also compiled a security staff list which has been submitted to police intelligence for vetting.
The plan would focus on assessing risk and threats to 13 rhino reserves and five black rhino expansion project sites in the province.
A total of R28.1 million had been set aside for the anti-rhino poaching campaigns, but Ezemvelo was also involved in other fund-raising measures for this programme.
DA MPL Radley Keys said a move to “stem the tide of demand” of horns should be launched by engaging countries like China where the traditional-medicine market was driving demand. - The Mercury