Johannesburg — A NEW committee to co-ordinate the fight against rhino poaching was formed yesterday as environmental groups vowed to work together to conserve rhino at the Lead SA Rhino Summit held in Johannesburg.
The summit’s resolutions were supported by a range of organisations including South African National Parks (SANParks), the Hawks, the South African Police Service, Space for Elephants Foundation, NSPCA Wildlife Unit, the Private Rhino Owners’ Association, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Department of Environmental Affairs.
Citizens with information about rhino poaching are reluctant to approach the police , representatives from rhino conservation groups said, calling for a neutral organisation to collect poaching intelligence.
So far 180 rhinos have been killed this year, the summit heard, with animals being killed on an almost daily basis, and endangering the future sustainability of SA’s rhino populations.
The Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit are conducting a joint operation to tackle rhino poaching, with the assistance of the South African National Defence Force. Assets worth R45m were seized from a suspected poaching gang earlier this year, while another three men were arrested in June for attempting to smuggle rhino horn out of SA.
Powdered rhino horn sells for more than R19000/kg in the Far East, where it is prized for supposed medical purposes, and organised gangs are believed to be responsible for the poaching.
Faan Coetzee, of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, which has its own antipoaching hotline, said the public is afraid to give information to the police. “Often the first thing they ask is, are you connected with the police. They fear that if they go to the police (the case) will go nowhere,” he said.
Peter Milton, from Strategic Protection of Threatened Species (Spots), echoed Mr Coetzee’s comments, saying Spots is often reluctant to act on information it receives because of the potential for bungling.
David Mabunda, CEO of SANParks, said most of the incursions into Kruger National Park are from Mozambique.
The summit resolved to launch a single national anti-poaching hotline, and intelligence will be passed on to the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit.
The committee will also raise funds for anti-poaching initiatives and conduct an information campaign about poaching.