Author Amanda Watson
Despite massive financial and manpower commitments, SA is still a killing field.
Millions of rands, countless man hours and some of the best technology money can buy has combined to reduce the number of rhino poached in South Africa by 13 from January to the end of June. During the first half of 2016, 542 rhinos were killed.
For 2017, the toll is 529. But poachers are still running amok throughout the country. The provincial breakdown for rhino poaching losses this year is: KwaZulu-Natal 133, Gauteng 1, Limpopo 41, Northern Cape 17, Eastern Cape 3, Mpumalanga 22, North West 45 and the Free State 24.
This translates to 2.93 rhino being slaughtered each day in South Africa.
At the peak of poaching in 2014, when 1 215 rhinos were killed over the year, it boiled down to an average of 3.32 rhinos being poached per day.
In her medium-term budget, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa allocated R104 million for combating wildlife crime from 2016 and 2019.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the roughly 40km of missing fence in the Kruger National Park between South Africa and Mozambique would eventually be replaced.
Kruger has traditionally borne the brunt of poaching and continues to do so with 243 carcasses found so far this year compared with 354 over the same period last year.
The numbers were questioned by Kim Da Ribeira of Outraged South African Citizens Against Poaching (Oscap).
“Our numbers were only out by 10, and we only collected what was reported in the media,” said Da Ribeira.
“I would have thought we would have missed a whole lot more.
“The birth rate is also not mentioned and neither are foetuses counted.”
As part of the plan to foil poaching in Kruger, an “intensive protection zone” was established in 2015.
This concentrated the rhino in a particular area and most of the Kruger National Park’s resources were used to protect them.
But the resultant thinner manpower on the ground has seen 30 elephants killed north of the Olifants River so far this year, compared with 46 for 2016.
Part of the DEA’s approach to fighting poaching has been the translocation of rhino, approved by Cabinet in 2014, which approved the transfer of up to 500 animals.
“For the most part, all rhinos were doing well and have established well in their new environments. It should be mentioned, however, that one facility [in the Free State] experienced an aggressive poaching onslaught and lost 15 rhinos out of 35, some of which originated from the KNP,” Molewa said.
STROOP film maker Bonné de Bod said it was never going to be an easy briefing for Molewa.
“There’s never any good news about the slaughter of our rhinos, and this morning … Molewa, told us that the number of rhinos poached so far for 2017 stands at 529,” De Bod said.
“Her department says this is a decrease of 13 rhinos compared to this time a year ago, and I see that the news media are reporting this as an optimistic outcome. I don’t think that is the case; we have to cautiously look at the figures the department released.”
Compared with this time last year, Kruger was sitting at a figure of 111 more rhinos poached, De Bod noted.
“But if we exclude Kruger’s dramatic decrease this year it tells us another story, which is we have had a huge increase in rhino poaching nationally, up by over 50%.
“And we already know this from KwaZulu-Natal where Hluhluwe-iMfolozi has been hit hard these past few months with their worst poaching ever,” De Bod said.
“When I was in the Northern Cape recently an investigative officer there told me there had been a dramatic increase there as well.
“So I’m afraid no good news out of this press conference for private rhino owners and smaller parks outside of Kruger, where the onslaught is not only continuing, but seems to be ramping up.”