Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa was adamant that efforts to protect the Kruger Park’s rhinos against poachers need to be escalated.
“We aren’t losing the war. Statistically speaking, had it not been for the ... measures we introduced last year ... the numbers could be far higher. The reality is that, given the magnitude of the problem, as well as the fact that rhino poaching is inextricably linked to organised transnational crime, our efforts need to be escalated,” she said.
When asked if the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and intelligence agencies were doing what they were supposed to do, Molewa was diplomatic: “Cabinet agreed that rhino poaching [has to be] tackled by teams ... For information on the successful prosecution and conviction of poachers, you will have to speak to the police, the Hawks and the NPA directly.
“Actionable intelligence on the ground provided by colleagues in law enforcement has actually played a key role in the effecting of a number of arrests,” she said.
“An eight-month-long, intelligence-driven investigation led to the arrest of a suspected rhino-horn smuggling kingpin in KwaZulu-Natal in December.
“The same goes for the bust of a horn-smuggling syndicate in the Czech Republic in December, and Operation Whisper – an undercover operation targeting organised crime groups involved in poaching, for which our teams [including the SA Police Service] received a certificate of commendation from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.”
Molewa said the Green Scorpions would soon be deployed at OR Tambo International Airport and other ports of entry.
She said she was keeping her word that poachers were being sent to jail.
“Just last month, the department handed over four 4x4 forensic investigation trailers to SANParks [and other agencies]. We recognise the need to sensitise and, if necessary, train justice officials around wildlife crime.”