South Africa has just released the rhino poaching figures for January and the news is not good. 57 rhino have been lost in the country so far this year with Kruger National Park losing 42 rhino. Thee is good news as the head of South Africa National Parks believes that the tide is beginning to turn.
SANParks Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda, said despite increased incursions from Mozambique, in particularly the Limpopo Transfrontier Park region in the north of Kruger National Park, anti-poaching operations were starting to yield results. “We bled in December, but as of January 1 there has been a change in strategy from a conservation management system to greater law enforcement, and this is working. Our operations are more militaristic. The number of poachers arrested has increased inside and outside the Park.”
The recent wet weather and flooding was partly to blame for the high number of losses as it prevented ranger patrols and responses to poaching incidents happening in some locations. The Kruger National Park was particularly affected by the floods with vehicles not being usable on the roads and patrols having to be undertaken on foot.
Of the 18 suspected poachers arrested since January 1, 2013, 11 were arrested in the Kruger National Park and three were fatally wounded. Three suspected poachers have been arrested in Limpopo following a tip-off related to their activities in the KNP and two in North West.
Besides the arrest of six suspected poachers, the recovery of seven rhino horns, heavy calibre hunting rifles, ammunition and poaching equipment during three operations in the KNP on January 18 and 19, six suspected poachers have been arrested by South African and Mozambican authorities since Friday (January 25), and two fatally wounded. All were armed.
On Friday night anti-poaching operatives in the Houtbosrand section of the KNP were involved in a shootout with two armed suspected poachers at a freshly killed rhino. During the contact one of the suspects was fatally wounded. The other managed to escape back to Mozambique. A heavy calibre hunting rifle, ammunition and the rhino’s horns were recovered.
An intelligence-driven operation on same day resulted in the arrest of two more suspected rhino poachers by the Mozambican authorities inside Mozambique, adjacent to Houtbosrand. The group were allegedly on their way to the KNP when they were arrested. A heavy calibre rifle and ammunition were recovered.
In a separate joint operation on Sunday (January 27), there was another shootout with three armed suspected rhino poachers near the Nwanedzi section of the KNP, during which one of the poachers was fatally wounded and two arrested. A heavy calibre hunting rifle with a silencer and ammunition were recovered.
Yesterday (January 30) joint forces were again involved in a shootout with armed suspected poachers in the Houtbosrand area. One of the suspects was wounded and arrested, while his two accomplices managed to escape back to Mozambique. A heavy calibre hunting rifle and ammunition were recovered.
Rhino poaching statistics: