SA moves to stop rampant rhino slaughter

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This baby rhino and its mother have had their horns treated with toxic ectoparasitacide to curb poaching. Picture: ANNE LAING

The killing of eight more rhinos has forced the government to take serious action. An additional 150 rangers would be deployed to the Kruger National Park this year in an attempt to stop rhino poaching, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Sunday.

They would join the 500 highly trained rangers who already worked in the Kruger. So far this year, 11 rhinos have been killed.

Two poachers have been killed and another two have been detained in connection with rhino poaching in the Kruger this year.

Of the 448 rhinos that were killed last year, 252 occurred in the Kruger, while the 11 killed in January already were also in the park.

Nineteen of the 448 were black rhinos. The species is now almost extinct in South Africa.

Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday, Molewa expressed her concern and strongly condemned the ongoing rhino poaching. “The ongoing poaching of our rhino population is a great concern to the government and its various stakeholders. It requires all of us as a collective to take drastic measures to help combat it.”

The chief executive of SA National Parks (SANParks), David Mabunda, said if the poaching was not curbed, the rhino population could be greatly affected by 2015.

Mabunda said the eight carcasses were found near the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park, near the Mozambican border.

This was the most vulnerable point as the rhinos and other animals could easily be seen drinking at the river.

Mabunda said the Mozambican community that lived across the border were very impoverished and could easily be enticed to participate in organised crime. “Most of the suspects are Mozambican and, of course, some are South African.”

About 57km of the fence along that border had been destroyed and the remaining 150km was “in a very bad condition”.

About R200 million would be needed to protect SA’s rhino, he said, and with the private sector now on board, as well as LeadSA, they could aim to reach that goal.

Molewa said she would meet the Department of Public Works today to discuss erecting a new fence along that route.

They would also meet Mozambican officials to discuss the urgency of the problem.

According to Mabunda, the new fence will be electrified. It’s main purpose would be to serve as an early warning system, he said. “The purpose is not to electrify anyone,” he explained.

The minister said other solutions included the National Biodiversity Investigations Forum, which was recently established, as well as setting up an interim National Wildlife Reaction Unit. She said the department intended to establish it as a permanent unit.

Furthermore, Molewa said she had decided not to effect a “blanket moratorium” on hunting. “There are many factors to be taken into consideration, which include the tourist image of South Africa.”

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had also returned to monitor the 350km of national border in the Kruger National Park, as well as other country borders.

The Department of Environmental Affairs is also working towards ensuring that at least two facilities – one at a sea port and one at OR Tambo International Airport – are secured, where wildlife officials at ports of entry and exit can inspect and examine wildlife consignments.

Operation Rhino remained a standing agenda item at the National Joint Committee, which comprises senior members of the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and the SANDF, Molewa said.

This committee is responsible for planning and co-ordination as well as implementation of high priority security measures.

“As a result of the effectiveness of the committee and its co-operation, 232 suspects were arrested in 2011 for rhino poaching and related activities.”

Molewa said the department’s efforts on an international level had intensified. “We have, to date, formally and on numerous occasions engaged our counterparts in the Peoples Republic of China and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

“We have managed within this short space of time to prepare the draft of memoranda of understanding on wildlife trafficking enforcement which we hope to sign during the first half of the year. Both these countries have pledged their commitment to partner with us in addressing this scourge.” - Pretoria News

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gef.o., wrote

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06:08pm on 17 January 2012
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No hunting permits to shoot Rhinos or Elephants! And please get the SANDF reservist units in to protect that little bit of these great animals which are left. They should be allowed to shoot poachers on sight!

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rhino lover, wrote

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08:10pm on 16 January 2012
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rhino's are beautiful creatures with fealings.it would be a sign of "higher consciousness" if the authorities started viewing these creatures as such and not as a commodity akin to trees in a forest or coal reserves. all rhino and elephant hunting should be banned because the mental calibre of the parks board is far inferior to these skanniving tradershunters.

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Anonymous, wrote

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06:34pm on 16 January 2012
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Send in the army, they aren't protecting any of our other borders, give them something to do...actually what does the army do?

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Anonymous, wrote

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04:17pm on 16 January 2012
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Blanket monotorium- cease all huntingshooting of Rhino!& SANDF reserve units to protect the animals....

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Fireworks, wrote

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03:58pm on 16 January 2012
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I agree with anonymous, fight fire with fire. Send the army to exterminate the heartless bastards killing these gentle creatures.Future poachers will think twice before embaking on such gruesome ventures.

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:40pm on 16 January 2012
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With the level of poverty in southern africa, we are likely to run out of rhinos before poachers. The punishment is unlikely to be a deterrent when there is a starving family. Those trading and exporting rhino horn should be targeted. Additional rangers (where security is already heavily compromised) will be of little help.

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JFT, wrote

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03:39pm on 16 January 2012
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Don't these people realise that they are killing the rinos off to make them extinct. They are stock pilling the rino horn in Asia and once they are extinct, it's value will increase substantially. They need to shoot on sight, no court, no jury, no second chances!

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Anonymous, wrote

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02:10pm on 16 January 2012
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There are so many SANDF reservist units,like regiment de larey.They has be deployed at Macadamia in 2010 & the hole oporation was sussecfull.The entire members are unemployment.They are comitted to do the job.

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Simon Bloch, wrote

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12:51pm on 16 January 2012
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"Furthermore, Molewa said she had decided not to effect a “blanket moratorium” on hunting. “There are many factors to be taken into consideration, which include the tourist image of South Africa".” Well, well, well, right out of the horses mouth...The esteemed minister of the environment does not seem to have thought that statement through very well before committing herself. Hunters first, tourists last. What is going on and how can she say that? South Africa's image in the eyes of the world is already sadly cracked given the seemingly ineffective defence we have mustered against the poaching on rhino, the flagship species in our Big 5. These creatures are under siege and running scared from the poachers as they figtht against extinction from the savagery of these criminals. Yet she does not think it time to extend a moratorium against the "barrel of the gun", a touchy subject caught up in the legal loopholes that exist in international and domestic laws governing endangered and threatened species.

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Eternity, wrote

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12:35pm on 16 January 2012
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make the price of a poachers scalp higher than that of a rhino's horn...

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Bill, wrote

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12:34pm on 16 January 2012
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No amount of policing will stop the problem. Just like drugs, the profits are too high. The only, and easiest solution is to poison the horns which will stop the demand. Countries which use the horn and make press announcements that horns are being poisoned so that they are warned.

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Anonymous, wrote

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12:25pm on 16 January 2012
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This article really moved me.how could people be so heartless?just for money.

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:30am on 16 January 2012
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How dedicated are these rangers???

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:03am on 16 January 2012
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Unfortunately, sometimes one has to fight fire with fire. SANParks would do well to hire a couple of ex 32 battalion chappies and let them get on with solving the problem. This has been done before in SA when stock theft was totally rampant, and hey presto! whithin a few weeks, no problem. Just dont ask questions as to how, why and where. Surely the rhino deserve deserve this type of action

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