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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Poaching Report

A total of 333 rhinos were lost to poaching in 2010, CEO of South African National Parks (SANParks), Dr David Mabunda, said yesterday. In the first 10 days of this year, five rhinos have been killed.

Last year 162 people were arrested in connection with poaching and most recently, SANParks confirmed that five poachers died in two separate incidents at the Kruger National Park (KNP) after poachers opened fire on rangers at the Crocodile Bridge and Pretoriuskop.

The worst hit areas last year were the KNP with 146 rhinos poached, North West province with 57, Limpopo province with 52 and KwaZulu Natal with 38. Provinces with fewer rhinos were least targeted by the criminals.

“The year 2010 will always be remembered as being one of the worst years for conservation in South Africa because of the ruthless assault on our rhino populations by merciless criminals,” said Dr Mabunda.

The 162 people arrested last year range from actual poachers to couriers. “The number of arrests made is considered to be an indication of the meaningful interventions brought by the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU) as the figure for arrests in the KNP alone for 2009 was 29 people and in 2010 the park arrested 67 suspects,” Dr Mabunda added.

Dr Mabunda said it was unfortunate that about five suspected poachers died during encounters with rangers on patrol in the KNP and one in the North West Province as the country would have preferred these suspected criminals to have their day in court and explain to the nation why they would commit such an unforgivable crime. “As much as the killings are regrettable, it is also an indication of how serious SANParks and the entire conservation fraternity are about fighting the surge in poaching happening in protected areas.”

Dr Mabunda said this year the NWCRU was planning to increase the intensity of investigations and arrests by reaching the higher echelons of poaching syndicates. “With the help of the international community we are confident we will be able to break these syndicates.”

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