Since the beginning of the year, 220 rhinos have been poached in South Africa, with KwaZulu-Natal being one of the hardest-hit provinces.

This is according to the Department of Environmental Affairs, which said the Kruger National Park, Limpopo, North West and KZN had the highest number of poached rhinos – accounting for 207 killings since January. Only five months into 2012 and the number of rhinos poached country-wide is already almost half last year’s total of 448. In KZN alone, 23 rhinos have been poached in the past five months, compared with 34 in 2011 and 38 in 2010.

Limpopo leads with 31 poached rhinos so far this year, compared with 74 last year, and 52 in 2010.

The authorities, however, are hitting back, with 146 arrests made nationally in connection with rhino poaching since the beginning of the year. Ten arrests have been made in KZN, compared with only four last year, while Mpumalanga has accounted for 44 arrests.

“We are dealing with very organised criminals, but we will continue the fight,” said Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

Molewa said the department had signed a memorandum with China and Vietnam that would be used to keep track of illegally-exported rhino horns.

This comes after Dr Bandile Mkhize, chief executive of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, proposed the creation of a global central selling organisation in rhino horn to stop poachers decimating the animal and to break the R1.2 billion illegal market.

Another suggestion to stop poaching and illegal trade, put forward by John Hume, founder of RhinoDotCom, a web portal that lobbies for the legalisation of rhino horn trade, was to move some rhino from national parks and put them into the custody of communities.

But, said Hume, rhinos were a major security risk to anyone involved in their management and protection.

The department has urged the public to report incidents of poaching to 0800 205 005. - Daily News

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