A staggering 106 rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu-Natal since January this year.
Last year, 102 rhinos were poached in the province and 93 in 2020.
KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ravi Pillay, said this indicated a syndicated operation operating with extraordinary brazenness.
Pillay said while security forces were responding and an increased number of rangers had been deployed, they were mindful that only a coordinated response among provincial, national and international bodies would have a long-term effect.
He said the provincial premier, Sihle Zikalala tasked his department with processing and implementing the recommendations of the report by the task team on rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal and the work was still in progress.
“It is my considered opinion that it will not be in the public interest to release the report into the public domain at this stage. Indeed, the authors specifically classify important parts of the report because of the sensitive nature concerning its impact on further investigations.
“The broad thrust of the report is receiving attention and will require a multi-disciplinary approach between Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the National Department of Environmental Affairs, SAPS, NPA and State Security,” said Pillay.
He added that there was suspicion of collusion between criminal syndicates and those tasked with conservation. This comes after the February sentencing of Sizwe Buthelezi to 10 years’ imprisonment in the Durban Regional Court for, inter alia, possession of rhino horn and unlicensed firearms.
Pillay said Buthelezi was a former police officer who served on the KwaMsane tactical response team.
He said appointment of the new board of directors would be a critical milestone in the institutional recovery of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as a whole and their anti-rhino poaching efforts as well. The appointment was expected to be concluded in April, but was interrupted due to the recent floods.
“In the meantime, rhino poaching continues to be treated as a priority crime and has the support of the highest level of the SAPS, including the provincial commissioner,” said Pillay.