‘Rhino poaching requires focused law enforcement’

LIMPOPO – Work to protect the endangered rhino continues as poaching becomes a fearless crime to commit.

Jessica Babich, secretary of Save the Waterberg Rhino, says nine carcasses were found at a privately-owned game ranch in May and that poachers brazenly broke in at a rhino orphanage, terrorised the staff and poached rhinos right there.

“The last few months have been a busy time for Save the Waterberg Rhino. One of our priority areas of focus has been the facilitation and set up of a security cluster in the Dorset, Melkrivier and Palala area, to the east of Vaalwater. This security cluster named the Northern Waterberg Security Initiative (NWSI) now has a committee set up and is well underway in its development.”

According to Philemon Mapulane, Chairman of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, the stripping of rhino horns is a national crisis. “The high rate of rhino poaching currently taking place in South Africa shows how fast environmental issues can pose a threat to citizens, the economy and environmental safety. Although there is a lot of crime against wildlife, rhino poaching is a national crisis,” he says.

“The strategy that was served by South African Police Service to the Cabinet for approval has to be approved as a matter of urgency so that we can speed up the fight against wildlife crime.”

According to Mapulane, this strategy takes the view that crime against wildlife is no longer just an environmental issue, but it has developed into serious organised crime and poses a threat to the country’s national security. “That’s why it requires focused law enforcement.”

Dr Lyle Pienaar of the State Security Agency (SSA) says that the new strategic approach contained in the proposal pointed out that the rhino case is a very emotional issue.

He states that figures however, indicate that the police have their hands full with other crimes such as murder. “The proposal will deal with the wider illegal trade in wildlife that forms part of organised crime. The commodity is an illegal commodity and the merchants will sell and smuggle anything they can sell like abalone and tiger bones and lately we see an increase in pangolin and reptiles. It’s important that the public do homework before purchasing any indigenous animal or parts of an animal. Contact the wildlife conservation and make sure about the legal aspects to privately own wild animals.”

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Mariëtte Roos

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