File photo: SANParks chief executive officer Dr David Mabunda

Cape Town - Rewards of up to R1-million have been announced for information about rhino poachers, and a retired army general with combat experience has been appointed to head up anti-poaching efforts in the Kruger National Park which is under siege by poachers.

These were among major anti-poaching measures announced on Wednesday by SA National Parks chief executive Dr David Mabunda at a function to launch the “Rhino Alive” campaign.

He was speaking in Skukuza, the “capital” of the world-famous park where 381 rhinos have been killed this year – more than 60 percent of the 618 lost throughout the country.

The park accounts for about 40 percent of the total world population of white and black rhinos, and Mabunda said they were expecting at least another 22 animals to be slaughtered there before the end of the year.

He announced the appointment of 60-year-old Major-General (retired) Johan Jooste to oversee the overall anti-poaching operations in the park.

Jooste, who retired from the SANDF in 2006 after 35 years’ service for which he was decorated, said rhino poaching should be seen as a declaration of war against South Africa by armed foreign criminals. “We are going to take the war to these armed bandits and we aim to win it.”

Mabunda said SANParks was offering a R1m reward for information leading to the successful conviction of a rhino poaching syndicate mastermind and R100 000 for information leading to the successful arrest of a suspected poacher.

A third measure was a partnership with Crime Line, a LeadSA initiative that allows the public to make anonymous SMS or online tip-offs on suspected crimes at any time.

Mabunda commended a Kruger National Park ranger who three weeks ago had alerted his colleagues and the police about an offer to collude that had been made to him by suspected poachers.

Instead, the ranger had helped stage a set-up that had led to the successful arrest of the perpetrators.

“His honesty, commitment and diligence to the cause of protecting the rhino has not gone unnoticed. The organisation will reward his good deed,” Mabunda said.

He explained that the appointment of Jooste had concluded the foundation phase of a multi-pronged strategy to combat rhino poaching that had resulted in South Africa losing an unprecedented number of these animals over the past five years.

Most of the rhinos had been killed in the Kruger National Park.

“Rhino Alive” aims to reduce rhino poaching between 10 percent and 18 percent annually for the next five years. - Cape Argus