Plans to curb poaching in place
MEC Sihle Zikalala says the number of rhino killed has reached 172 and alleges that syndicates are behind the killings
PLANS to curb rhino poaching in the province are well in place, the economic development, tourism and environmental affairs department said.
It said it was taking the fight to crime syndicates mostly from Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
At a joint press briefing with Ezemvelo Wildlife held at the Spioenkop Nature Reserve, MEC Sihle Zikalala, said the number of rhino killed in the province had reached 172.
Alleging that syndicates were behind the gruesome killings, Zikalala said plans to prevent further massacres of the rhino would involve targeting the syndicates by taking the fight to them.
“We have put in place a number of interventions geared towards proactively making it more onerous on poachers and syndicates to prey on these beasts,” Zikalala said.
“This includes, but is not limited to, the de-horning of small populations of rhino and taking immediate action against any staff member who is suspected of being involved in poaching syndicates, or has been found guilty with immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution. A command control centre, whose function is to manage the deployment of security personnel and information management, has also been established in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.”
Ezemvelo also strengthened its own internal controls to ensure that none of its staff members colluded with poachers.
The department said the bolstering of security at rhino reserves should act as a deterrent for other would be poachers.
Zikalala said the high number of poached rhinos was a huge concern for the province. “While the number of 172 rhinos killed this year is high, we realise that it could have been much higher had it not been for communities residing in the vicinity of our wildlife parks, who alert us to suspicious activity,” Zikalala said.
Even as he decried the number of rhinos that had already been killed this year, the MEC was nonetheless full of praise for communities residing in the vicinity of game reserves, who blew the whistle on poachers.
In this regard, Zikalala said, comanagement agreements had been signed with communities in areas such as Ndumo, Tembe, Okhukho, Hlabisa and Mpukunyoni.
“Ezemvelo has strengthened its manpower by recruiting an additional 18 security personnel, who will be deployed in 10 rhino reserves.
“The province had also partnered with the department of environmental affairs at national level to appoint 412 environmental monitors that had been dispatched to 23 Ezemvelo Protected Areas,” Zikalala said.
These have resulted in the strengthening of partnerships between Ezemvelo and communities.
HORNS OF DESPAIR: MEC Sihle Zikalala says plans to prevent further massacres of the rhino must target crime syndicates.