There has been an 11% decrease in rhino killings in the country in the first six months of 2023, compared to the same period last year.
This was announced by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment in a statement on Tuesday.
According to the department, between January 1 and June 30, poaching trends also continued to show a move away from the Kruger National Park (KNP) to provincial and private reserves.
They said 42 rhinos were poached in the KNP and 143 in KwaZulu-Natal from January to June. Meanwhile, 46 of the rhinos killed were in privately-owned nature reserves and 143 in provincially owned reserves.
According to Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, this decline can be owed to law enforcement agencies, including the SAPS, DPCI and the Green Scorpions, customs officials, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and the National Prosecuting Authority.
Working with law enforcement agencies
Creecy said an important development in strengthening the collaboration between these role players in order to effectively address the organised nature of rhino poaching and wildlife trafficking, is Cabinet’s recent approval in May this year of the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT), which aims to break the illicit value chain of wildlife trafficking in South Africa and beyond its borders.
“Although currently our main focus is rhino, the strategy also aims to address the illegal trade in, and poaching of, other species that are threatened by trafficking syndicates, like abalone,” said Creecy.
Speaking on the arrests made in the first six months of 2023, Creecy said 31 offenders have been convicted and the majority of sentences were custodial.
“In Skukuza, one suspect was found guilty of killing three rhinos and for the possession of unlawful arms and ammunition and was sentenced to an effective 32 years’ imprisonment.
“In another matter, three accused were found driving in the Kruger National Park, with five rhino horns hidden in the vehicle, a hunting rifle with a silencer, ammunition and knives. They were convicted for the killing of three rhinos in the park, possession of unlawful firearms and ammunition, possession of dangerous weapons and trespassing. Two accused were sentenced to 34 years’ imprisonment, while the third was sentenced to 39 years’ imprisonment.
“In Limpopo, an accused individual was sentenced on a charge of murder, killing two rhinos, unlicenced firearm and ammunition to an effective sentence of 24 years’ imprisonment. In the Eastern Cape, six accused were convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit rhino poaching (notably no rhinos were killed) and the possession of unlicenced firearm and ammunition and effectively sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 16 to 20 years,” she added.
Plans to combat Rhinopoaching
To combat rhino poaching in the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, which continues to be a target for poachers, Creecy said the department has made available R40m for the repair and replacement of the boundary fence around the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi game reserve which is regularly breached and through which wild animals can escape to nearby communities.
Creecy added that the NPA has also designated a prosecutor to facilitate rhino cases in KZN and cases have been prioritised and identified to be expedited through the court processes.
The minister also added that the department also has a plan in place that aims to improve ranger morale and resilience to corruption by providing services that enhance ranger health and well-being, provide training and counselling, offer a range of financial management services and debt management.
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