The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has disclosed that 232 suspects have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching during the past year.
The arrested suspects consisted of 194 rhino poachers, 24 receivers of rhino horns, 12 couriers along with two exporters. Absolutely no buyers ended up being arrested.
Deputy Director General on biodiversity and conservation inside the department, Fundisile Mketeni, informed MPs of the fact that crimes relating to rhino poaching and sales of rhino horns was in fact grossing approximately R160 billion annually.
He stated that from 2009 and 2011; 903 reported rhinos were poached and slaughtered . In addition, he forecasted that an estimated 300 rhinos were probably going to be poached this year.
He pointed out the fact that the North West and Limpopo provinces are guilty of the highest numbers of poached rhinos.
Mketeni was speaking during a briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs which was attended by over a dozen concerned organisations and individuals.
The organisations highlighted a number of challenges concerning rhino poaching in addition to proposing feasible solutions.
Mketeni revealed that the majority of the poached rhino horns happen to be destined for Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and China.
He revealed that South Africa was currently at various stages of signing bilateral agreements with these countries for purposes of combating the crime.
Mtekeni expressed his dissatisfaction with regards to the deficiency of coordination between his department together with its provincial counterparts in addition to other associated departments in dealing with the issue.
He called for his department to be given centralized powers which would permit them to decisively contend with the challenge.
Mtekeni mentioned that the department needs to have its own officers trained along the lines of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
“We are looking for our own intelligence and then use it the way we want,” he was quoted saying, implying that these would be in a position to directly pursue rhino poaching syndicates outside the country.
He said they planned to set up their own officials at ports of entry in addition to train customs officials to assist in the detection of suspects preparing to leave the country.
He called for the Department of Public Works to fix, electrify and insert an electrical detection system on the fence running along the border between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique where rhino poaching activities happen to be numerous.
Committee chairman Advocate Johnny de Lange told Mtekeni that his department could take a number of powers from provincial departments and employ them on a national level.
De Lange declared that measures must be taken to avoid the further killing of rhinos.
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