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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Calls mount for wildlife poaching to be made a scheduled offence

An experts says SA should focus on pushing up the success rate of convictions for poachers.


Calls for harsher sentencing and stricter bail applications for wildlife poachers will not scare them off, according to an expert.

Last week, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said meetings were held this year with the National Director of Public Prosecutions’ environmental working group to discuss the challenge relating to the opposing of bail because rhino poaching was not listed as a scheduled offence.

Creecy said research was being conducted to propose, if viable, legislative amendments to address this challenge.

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Outraged South African Citizens against Rhino Poaching member Kim Da Ribeira said they had been calling for a while to upgrade poaching to a scheduled offence.

She said all poaching offences should be treated and prosecuted the same.

“We need to send a message that is a lot stronger… Currently, it’s a matter of you get arrested, you get bail and off you go and do it again.”

Harder sentencing

Gap Africa Projects country manager Carmen Warmenhove said poaching should be a scheduled offence.

“The poachers are often hardened criminals who will likely commit other crimes. I wish those at the top, the kingpins, could be caught because they are the ones pulling the strings,” she said.

Professor Ray Jansen, founding member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Pangolin Specialist Group, said pangolins and other threatened or protected species listed for South African offences should be placed as a scheduled offence.

Law expert Dr Llewelyn Curlewis said: “It’s one thing to have harder sentencing and another to get the sentencing right. If you don’t get the convictions right, not even the hardest punishment in the world, not even the death penalty, would deter rhino poaching.

“The issue is not the punishment itself, but does it deter people from doing it,” he said.

Curlewis said SA should focus on pushing up the success rate of convictions for poachers.

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