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Johannesburg - South Africa should diligently continue to implement measures to limit the possible abuse of hunting permits, to safeguard its threatened rhino population.

Cites, the global wildlife trade body, has warned that organised crime groups from the Czech Republic, for example, continue to target Souh Africa to exploit rhino trophy hunting to launder horns into the illegal trade.

It says measures implemented to prevent pseudo-hunting have led Czech crime groups, who had been recruiting pseudo-hunters, to change their modus operandi and start recruiting professional hunters.

“South Africa should better co-ordinate with destination countries to check whether they have measures in place to monitor and regulate the movement and possession of rhino horn.”

The Department of Environmental Affairs revealed this week that the number of rhinos killed by poachers this year had climbed to 558. It is entertaining the possible legalisation of trade in rhino horn to cut poaching.

The decisions made at this week’s Cites meeting in Geneva will guide its conference in South Africa in 2016.

Although the country reports it has received “reflect good progress”, Cites says poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn continue to pose a significant threat to rhino populations. “It remains a global problem.”

It describes as “commendable” the measures adopted by South Africa to enhance co-operation with Mozambique and Vietnam.

Vietnam, through its revision of its wildlife crime laws and its increased awareness activities, has “set in motion a political momentum” to combat the illegal wildlife trade. This has contributed significantly to progress in Vietnam’s efforts to implement measures to combat the illegal trade.

Measures by Mozambique to enhance efforts to combat the poaching of rhinos and the illegal trade had seen a “notable increase” in arrests. Its Conservation Areas Act provided for prison sentences of eight to 12 years.

But “Mozambique continues to be a key country in relation to poaching incursions in the Kruger National Park. Syndicates continue to target it as a country from which rhino horns can be obtained and smuggled to clandestine markets”.

Saturday Star