By Thomas Whittle
South African environmental affairs minister said on Thursday that everything possible will be done to ensure the protection of South Africa’s rhino population.
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa made the remarks after law enforcement agents arrested six suspected rhino poachers in the Limpopo Province following the theft of 66 rhino horns from a private stockpile near Roedtan in Limpopo last week.
The latest arrests brought to 66 the number of people arrested since the beginning of the year for rhino poaching and related activities.
But Molewa said that driven by growing market demands for rhino horns, rhino poaching continued unabated despite an intensified crackdown.
In the past week five rhinos were poached in South Africa, bringing the number of animals killed for their horns to 232, since the beginning of 2013, the minister said.
She urged all South Africans to work with law enforcement agencies to thwart on-going poaching.
The unchecked rhino poaching has prompted the government to consider “a national security risk” given the fact that criminal syndicates are behind the scourge.
Authorities warned that if the scourge is not contained, the number of rhinos killed this year would surpass that of last year when 448 rhinos were poached countrywide.
The World Wildlife Fund said killing of South African rhinos for their horns has increased 50 percent since 2011 and nearly 5, 000 percent since 2007.