The battle against rhino poaching is once again making ground in the Kruger. The Kruger Task Force was kept very busy last week, as they made contact on five separate occasions with suspected poachers.
On Saturday 9 February, four suspected poachers were arrested on their way to Mjejane, with possession of hunting rifles and ammunition. Later that night, a more dangerous fire-fight ensued when a patrol group of only two SANParks rangers came up against six armed poachers. Through luck (or training) both survived: however, three of the poaching party were killed, and another was seriously injured. The survivors managed to flee into Mozambique. Apart from two heavy-calibre hunting rifles and an AK47, a posterior rhino horn was recovered at the scene.
According to Wanda Mkutshulwa, SANParks Head of Communications, “All indications were that the poaching group of six were well trained, well-armed and were attired in battle camouflage fatigues. The sheer number, equipment and tactics presented by the poaching group indicated their aggressive intent. Conditions are currently really difficult and urgent cooperation from our counterparts in Mozambique to ensure stability in the KNP is required.”
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, will be meeting with her Mozambican counterpart on the 22nd February to discuss this issue.
There has been an increase in incursions north of the Olifants River, towards the border with Zimbabwe. The military has not yet been deployed in this area, so it is solely under the protection of the SANParks rangers for the moment.
Kruger also released their most up-to-date statistics for 2013 last week. It’s not great news: of the 82 rhinos poached in South Africa this year, 61 have been taken from the Kruger. The number of arrested poachers has dropped dramatically since 2010, which is strange considering that the overall number of poachers must have risen: but, then again, they haven’t offered data for the poachers who have been fatally injured. Perhaps this number is on the rise.
Seeing as Vietnam outlawed the import of rhino and elephant products on 24 January, we can only hope that the military involvement is one of many factors that will help to decrease the scourge of poaching in South Africa.
Photo credit: Brian Scott
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