Cape Town — The Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has revealed that 232 suspects were arrested in connection with rhino poaching last year.
The suspects consisted of 194 rhino poachers, 24 receivers of rhino horns, 12 couriers and two exporters. No buyers were arrested.
Deputy Director General on biodiversity and conservation in the department, Fundisile Mketeni, told MPs on Thursday that the crime was grossing about R160 billion annually.
He said that between 2009, 2010 and last year, 122; 333, and 448 rhinos were poached respectively. He projected that about 300 rhinos were likely to be poached this year.
He highlighted that the North West and Limpopo provinces have the highest numbers of poached rhinos.
Mketeni was speaking during a briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs by over a dozen concerned organisations and individuals.
The organisations highlighted several problems on rhino poaching as well as proposing possible solutions.
Mketeni said that most of the poached rhino horns were destined for Asian countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and China.
He indicated that South Africa was at various stages of signing bilateral agreements with these countries for purposes combating the crime.
Mtekeni complained about a lack of coordination between his department and its provincial counterparts as well as other related departments in dealing with problem.
He called for his department to be given centralized powers which would allow them to decisively deal with the matter.
Mtekeni said that the department should have its own officers trained along the lines of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
“We want to have our own intelligence and use it the way we want,” he said, indicating that these would be able to directly pursue rhino poaching syndicates outside the country.
He said they planned to deploy their own officials at ports of entry as well as to train customs officials to help detect suspects about to leave the country.
He called for the Department of Public Works to fix, electrify and insert an electrical detection system on the fence between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique where rhino poaching activities were frequent.
Committee chairman Advocate Johnny de Lange told Mtekeni that his department could take certain powers from provincial departments and exercise them at a national level.
De Lange said that action should be taken to prevent the further killing of rhinos.