Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, has bowed to pressure and released the official body-count of South African rhinos slaughtered by poachers for their horns.
Earlier this year Minister Molewa refused to release the information on the grounds that her staff had other priorities. Network For Animals asked its supporters to write to the Minister asking her to reconsider, and now the new statistics have been released.
In the first four months of 2015, 393 rhino were killed – an increase of 18.7 per cent over 2014 when 331 rhino died. 290 rhinos were killed in South Africa’s famous Kruger National Park alone, an increase of 36.7 per cent from last year’s figure of 212.
The minister noted that the number of poachers arrested had increased from 96 between January and April last year to 132 for the same period this year.
David Barritt, Network For Animal’s Africa director, welcomed the minister’s decision to release the statistics. “In order for effective anti-poaching strategies to be put in place, we need to know the reality, grim though it might be,” he said. “We now know that poaching is getting worse and that current efforts are not sufficient to stop it.
“To save the rhinos, we need more anti-poaching units and a greater allocation of police intelligence resources to the poaching challenge.”
“Most importantly of all, we need the help and support of the international community. We need to educate those who wrongly believe that rhino horn has medicinal properties and we need to clamp down hard on the illegal trade in rhino horn. Most rhino horns go to just one country – Vietnam.”
General Johan Jooste, the commanding officer of the South African National Parks’ special projects unit, that is is in the forefront of anti poaching efforts, said more than 6000 people are involved in poaching syndicates including poachers, drivers and middlemen based in local communities around the Kruger National Park.