By Sipho Kings
With stiff jail sentences being passed by judges, the department said 114 people had been arrested in connection with poaching. Fifty of these had been arrested in the Kruger National Park, where the majority of the country's rhinos live.
Since poaching steeply accelerated in 2009, the park has been the focus of most anti-poaching efforts by the government. But 247 of the rhino killed so far have come from the park. South Africa has 20 000 rhino left, 70% of the world's population.
The increase in the rate of rhino poached comes in spite of the use of new technology in the war against poachers – most of whom are coming over the border from Mozambique. Edna Molewa, minister of environmental affairs, has been pushing for an agreement between the two countries to curb poaching.
But the biggest problem has been the fence between the South African and Mozambique sides of the new transfrontier park, which was taken down when the park was extended. Molewa has said her department is considering putting the fence back up, at a cost of around R400-million.
In her budget vote this week, Molewa said R75-million had been specifically given to SANParks for anti-poaching operations.
Paul Daphne, head of SANParks communications, said the situation in the park had forced them to adopt a "military stance in tackling rhino crimes". The army is already deployed in the park, and rangers were now being supported by an unmanned drone from Denel. More....