A total of 82 rhino have been poached in the country since January 1. File photo: Jennifer Bruce
A total of 82 rhino have been poached in the country since January 1. File photo: Jennifer Bruce

100 rhino killed in 2 months

By John Yeld Time of article published Mar 14, 2012

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More than 100 rhinos have already been killed by poachers in SA this year.

If this rate of killing continues, the total number of dead animals could be at least a third higher than last year when the “record” of 448 was set.

The figure of more than 100 was confirmed on Tuesday by Environmental Affairs department spokesman Albi Modise, who said he did not have the exact number to hand.

He said minister Edna Molewa would be announcing on Sunday the latest measures to tackle the unprecedented rhino poaching scourge and that she would also give the most up-to-date number of mortalities then.

On February 29, SA National Parks (SANParks) announced that 80 rhinos have been have been lost to poaching since the beginning of the year across the country – 43 in the Kruger National Park alone – while 50 arrests had been made.

But there have been a number of incidents since then.

Some of these include the arrest of Joseph “Big Joe” Nyalunga at the beginning of March, when police officers allegedly found four rhino horns behind the seat of his Colt bakkie in Hazyview, Mpumalanga. The former policeman is suspected of being involved in the poaching of two rhinos in the Kruger National Park, and four park officials were also arrested in connection with the incident.

Last week, Mozambican Jose Antonio Sitoe, 29, was arrested during an incident in which SANParks rangers shot dead a suspected rhino poacher and wounded two others in the Kruger National Park.

Also this month, the carcasses of three white rhinos believed to have been shot by poachers – two of them pregnant cows – were found at two separate places in Limpopo.

Last week, three men were arrested on suspicion of rhino poaching at the Sandveld Nature Reserve, near Hoopstad in the Free State.

This week, Molewa revealed in response to parliamentary questions by DA environment spokesman Gareth Morgan that proposed measures to end “pseudo” rhino hunts, in which people posing as trophy hunters are named in the permits but where the animals are specifically killed for their horns, would be announced for public consultation soon.

She also said that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vietnam, which is where many rhino “hunters” come from, would be signed soon, and that she had met her Mozambican counterpart to discuss interventions relating to rhino poaching.

She had also finalised an addendum with counterparts in China to the existing MoU, which will be signed around April, focusing on enforcement matters. A departmental delegation would visit China this month to discuss the rhino poaching problem and other matters.

Molewa’s department has this week taken over from SA National Parks (SANParks) the releasing of all information on the rhino crisis.

Modise denied the move was any kind of information blackout.

“It’s to make sure that we have a synchronised and controlled line of communication,” he said. “This is a national issue and SANParks is just one of the players. It also involves the police and the Hawks and national intelligence.”

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