By Kim Helfrich
More suspected rhino poachers have been arrested so far this year than were taken into custody for the whole of last year but rhino poaching continues unabated with 825 carcasses bearing mute testimony to the continued slaughter of this Big Five species.
This translates into 2.7 rhinos a day, with the Kruger National park still the favoured target of poachers, the majority of whom are Mozambicans. This point was stressed by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano speaking at the launch of the Joaquim Chissano Foundation Wildlife Preservation Initiative in Maputo earlier this week.
He said 70% of the rhino killed in South Africa can be attributed to Mozambicans. Correspondingly, 68% of suspected poachers arrested in South Africa are from South Africa’s eastern neighbour.
This point was also made earlier this year by retired SA Army general Johan Jooste, now in overall charge of SANParks wildlife anti-poaching operations. He wants a government to government agreement to give Kruger National Park rangers a “hot pursuit” option. This will allow rangers to follow poaching suspects across the border without creating international incidents.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), via the SA Army and Army Reserves as well as SA Air Force elements, are also active in anti-rhino poaching operations in the world-renowned game reserve. Proof it is the target of choice for poachers comes from Kruger losing by far the largest number of rhinos - 500 - of any area or province.
As of the beginning of this month, 272 arrests of alleged poachers and others suspected of involvement in the horn poaching chain were secured by South African law enforcement agencies. The majority of arrests - 101 - were in Kruger.
The involvement of the wider South African defence sector in counter poaching operations is illustrated by Denel Dynamics deploying a Seeker UAV in Kruger and a Seabird Seeker reconnaissance aircraft compliments of Ivor Ichikowitz’ Paramount Group. More....