By Patrick Cull
A SPECIAL Investigative Unit has been established in the Eastern Cape to combat rhino poaching, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism MEC Mcebisi Jonas has announced.
The announcement comes as poachers turn to Eastern Cape game reserves and as National Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa told parliament 78 rhinos had been killed by poachers between January 1 and February 27 this year.
Presenting his policy speech in the Bhisho legislature, Jonas said his department planned to “professionalise” the investigative unit through DNA rhino sampling training, crime scene management courses, media campaigns and the training of provincial parks’ and private reserves’ anti- poaching units. In addition, he said, honorary nature and environmental conservators (green reservists) would be appointed.
“Led by the Green Scorpions, the province will pursue a zero tolerance approach to environmental crime,” he said. Replying to a question from Gareth Morgan (DA) in the national assembly, Molewa said the “most significant obstacle” facing anti-poaching campaigns was the “international nature of the crime as well as the fact that organised crime syndicates are involved”. “It is thus not easy to get to the kingpins who buy the rhino horn.”
Spelling out steps taken by SANParks, she said a feasibility study was under way into the use of tracker dogs in anti-poaching and follow-up campaigns, while a second ultra-light aircraft had been purchased for operations in the Kruger National Park. In addition, 58 new field rangers had been deployed into poaching “hot spots” in the park.
Molewa said besides the steps taken by SANParks, the South African National Defence Force had been deployed along the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park “as part of their mandate to control the international borderline of South Africa”.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday March 24, 2012.