What the min­is­ter says

CityPress - - News -

En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Edna Molewa was adamant this week 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 horns­mug­gling 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.”

What can gov­ern­ment do to im­prove its fight against rhino poach­ing?

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