National 11.9.2016 01:20 pm

More rhino poachers being arrested, says Molewa

Minister Edna Molewa. (Photo: GCIS)

Minister Edna Molewa. (Photo: GCIS)

There has been a significant increase in the number of arrests of alleged rhino poachers this year, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Sunday.

In a report-back statement on progress made in the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros for the period May 1 to August 31, she said 414 alleged poachers had been arrested in South Africa since January 1 – of which 177 were in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and 237 for the rest of the country.

A total of 94 firearms had been seized inside the KNP between January 1 and August 31. Among the notable investigations, arrests, and prosecutions linked to rhino poaching were:

– The arrest of three men in Vanderbijlpark in April during a police operation for allegedly intending to sell rhino horns. Adriaan Van Staden, Martin Van Rooyen, and Conrad Strydom were found in possession of 18 rhino horns. Their court date was September 20;

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– In a matter linked to the arrest in Vanderbijlpark, two other men – Adriaan du Plessis and Nardus Rossouw – were arrested in Lephalale, Limpopo, for their alleged involvement in orchestrating the illegal selling of rhino horns. Their court date was September 15;

– In the Eastern Cape, three suspects were arrested for rhino poaching and the illegal possession of a fresh rhino horn in June. The arrest followed the killing of a rhino bull in a private game reserve earlier the same day in the Grahamstown area. Jabulani Ndlovu, Sikhombuzi Ndlovu, and Zimbabwean national Forget Ndlovu were arrested during a joint operation during which a dart gun and darts, several saws, knives, M99 tranquilisers, and two high performance vehicles were also confiscated. The accused in this case remained in custody following their court appearances;

– On August 10, the Hawks and South African National Parks (SANParks) officials arrested three men in Equestria, Pretoria, during a police operation, who were intending to sell five rhino horn. Pieter Van Zyl, 67, Marco Swanepoel, 35, and Stephan Mylie, 30, were found in possession of an additional three rhino horns during the arrest. During follow-up investigations a massive haul of almost 105 rhino horns, the value of which was yet to be determined, was found. The three accused, who were granted bail during their court appearance in August, were scheduled to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on October 12; and

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– Law enforcement agencies working at OR Tambo International Airport in Gauteng in August arrested a Chinese national found in possession of 10 rhino horns, 84 stick ornaments made out of elephant ivory, and 41 elephant ivory bangles. The suspect, Desheng Zhane, was about to board a flight to Hong Kong when he was nabbed. A joint investigation was underway by the Hawks and the Green Scorpions.

The combined efforts of the environmental affairs department (DEA), law enforcement and the conservation agencies – with the support of international partners and donors – were slowly but steadily making a dent in the rhino poaching numbers, Molewa said.

Rhino poaching was declared a national priority crime in 2014 and the issue continued to receive the highest level of attention from the DEA, law enforcement authorities, and the prosecution service, she said.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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