Poachers accessing the Kruger National Park from Mozambique are, according to an Army officer, not as big a problem currently as people living on the western side of the internationally renowned game reserve.
Major Sipho Ndlangamandla, acting operations staff officer at the Nelspruit joint operations centre, is reported by Afrikaans daily Beeld as saying fewer poachers are entering Kruger from the eastern national border with Mozambique.
He said since the military was redeployed to the Kruger National Park in 2011 fewer rhino poachers were entering the park from Mozambique.
According to him poaching syndicates infiltrate Kruger from squatter camps and communities, he used the Afrikaans word “nedersettings” meaning settlements, on the park’s western boundary.
“Before the military came back to Kruger in 2011, poaching was almost out of control. We managed to stabilise the eastern boundary with Mozambique,” he told a counter-poaching demonstration arranged for media near Skukuza this week.
Ndlangamandla said rhino horn syndicates had infiltrated communities between White River and Pretoriuskop in the south as well as some in the area north of Klaserie.
“The syndicates use these people to collect intelligence for them on what is happening inside Kruger,” he said, adding infiltration of rhino poaching syndicates had to be done by the SA Police Service’s crime intelligence division and the State Security Agency.
Private game reserves in the Sabie and Klaserie areas acted as buffers preventing easy access for rhino poachers to Kruger, he said, and this meant soldiers were concentrating anti- and counter-poaching activities south of the Olifants River.
Soldiers deployed to the Kruger National Park have as their primary task border protection in terms of Operation Corona but they assist rangers, police and others in the ongoing battle against rhino poaching. Last year poachers killed 1 215 rhinos nationally with Kruger bearing the brunt of the poaching.
The Department of Environment Affairs has only once this year made public information about rhino kills. That was on January 22 when the kill figure was given as 49 of which 29 were in Kruger.
Environment Affairs Minister Edna Molewa recently indicated rhino kill statistics would “probably” only be issued once every three or four months.