Mbombela — Mpumalanga MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism Norman Mokoena has called for harsher action against rhino poachers.
“I call upon law enforcement agencies to deal very harshly with anyone caught poaching any of our rhinos, or any other endangered species,” he said.
He said the Constitution clearly stated that South Africans had a collective responsibility to protect the country’s fauna and flora.
“This includes rhino and other endangered species. We have an obligation towards future generations to protect these species at all costs,” he said.
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa released figures last week indicating that, since January, 51 rhinos had been poached across the country. Of these, 33 were poached in the Kruger National Park.
MEC Mokoena thanked members of the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit for their fight against poaching.
“Greed and the urge to make a quick buck at the expense of our rhinos will not be tolerated. The law must take its course and these cruel people should receive the harshest sentence ever given in South Africa,” concluded Mokoena.
It has been widely reported that powerful crime syndicates are behind the rhino killings, fuelled by demand for horns in Vietnam and China, where horns are ground up and used in traditional medicine – often as aphrodisiacs.
According to South African National Parks (SANParks), in 2010 alone, 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa. In 2009, 122 rhinos were killed in the country, compared to only 13 that were poached in 2007.