Poachers winning but rhino losses down

FILE PICTURE: The decomposing carcass of a poached rhino.  Picture: Alaister Russell

FILE PICTURE: The decomposing carcass of a poached rhino. Picture: Alaister Russell

Yet another rhino was killed in the Kruger National Park early yesterday morning.

This brings to 860 the number of rhino killed nationally and 521 killed in the park.

“We are working very hard to not go over 600,” said head of Kruger’s Ranger Corps, retired Major-General Johan Jooste.

“Can we win? The answer is not yet. Can it be won? It can be won, but we will have to do some things differently. If it were not for the efforts we have put in this year, and those of our allies, we would have suffered savage losses of rhino.”

However, there was a smidgen of good news: “The year-on-year increase for two years in a row was 70%. This year, up to now, it is about 30% and projections for the end of the year are about 50%.”

He said 118 illegal hunters were stopped, of which 40 were killed during contacts. “We are not killers, but as the poachers become more aggressive, they resist arrest then you have to defend yourself. Every case is investigated by the police and a lawyer.

We cannot just shoot a person in the bush and only the animals and the bush know about it. Apart from that 118, a similar number of people were arrested east into Mozambique and South Africa. In Mozambique it was almost 40 and in SA it was somewhere in the 70s.”

He added the final victory of anti-poaching would be fought in the courts and not in the field. “There are a lot more poachers than animals and rhino, and poor people are abused by greedy people. Our philosophy is that you do not clear from the inside the park. Your other departments, your intelligence agencies, must clear the park from the outside.”

One such place would be the Department of Justice, which finally sent two men away for illegal hunting and possession of rhino horn on Monday.

Philani Khanyile and Nhlathu Siyaya were arrested in November 2010 when two rhino horns were discovered in their vehicle during a roadblock. The pair were sentenced to 10 years each by the Vryheid Magistrate’s Court.

In Limpopo Province at the Kruger National Park, rangers been busy for two weeks as poachers trek deeper into the park in search of their elusive prey.

Jooste said he expected the number of poached animals to rise sharply in December. “We need to focus on the higher levels of syndicates. We will keep on doing what we are doing and we must be more more effective. But this is not the way to ultimately win the war.” He added the rangers were in mortal danger and that they had joined South African National Parks to be conservationists, but were now made para-military. A support group has been established for them.


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