File picture: Renee Graham/AP

The security measures – which have been hugely effective in reducing rhino poaching at the Kruger National Park – have pushed poachers into other provinces particularly in KwaZulu-Natal.

This is according to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa at a briefing in Cape Town on Monday. 

“Given its size and the large number of rhino living in the park in particular, much of our efforts remain directed there. I am pleased to announce that there has been a decrease in poaching incidents in the park. This is due to our sustained effective law enforcement efforts.”

She acknowledged that the threat of poaching was now “a challenge” to other provinces.

“Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has begun strengthening its response capacity as an anti-poaching unit in line with the existing Mission Area Joint Operational Center (MAJOC). As part of the plan, they are now in the process of setting up an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) to ensure priority allocation of resources to where it matters most,” she said.

In an effort to crack down on rhino poaching, she said, they had enlisted the assistance of a number of state agencies and departments.

She said during the period from January to June,  359 alleged poachers and traffickers had been arrested nationally.

“The number of arrests inside the Kruger National Park totalled 90 alleged poachers with 112 arrested adjacent to the park.”

She said there had been “a slight decrease” in the number of rhino poached nationally. 

“A total of 529 rhino have been poached since January 2017, compared to 542 in the same period for 2016, representing a decrease of 13 rhinos.”

In the Kruger Park, which has traditionally borne the brunt of poaching, a total of 243 rhino carcasses were found between January and the end of June this year. 

“This is compared to 354 in the same period in 2016. This represents a decrease of 34%.”

She acknowledged that while there had been a decrease in the number of rhino killed for their horns in the park and Mpumalanga, the number of rhino poached unfortunately increased in some other provinces.

“It is with concern that we also report that in 2017, 30 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park. The interventions being implemented to counter rhino poaching are also used to respond to this emerging threat.”

She said most of the rangers across the country had been converted to anti-poaching units. The country has also been working with other countries to curb illegal trade.

“(We have) formally requested DNA samples from illegally traded horn confiscated in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique and the Netherlands. These samples assist in linking such seizures to poaching incidents providing important information to assist with further investigations.”

Rhino Programme manager at WWF-SA Jo Shaw said the fact that levels of rhino poaching had not been reduced significantly overall – and had gone up in KwaZulu-Natal – and that elephant poaching is growing, emphasised the need for a “systemic response”.

“A strong strategy has been developed but must now be implemented. Why is this not happening? Alternative livelihoods and social development must also be prioritised for the people living around our key conservation areas.”

Outraged South African Citizens against Rhino Poaching (Oscap) spokesperson Kim da Ribeira said the issue of corruption needed to be addressed.

“Perhaps parks need to employ the use of lifestyle audits to make sure that rangers are not living beyond their means.”

The Mercury