He said the targeted provinces included Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and KwaZulu-natal, which collectively accounted for 73 killed rhinos. Thus far, 122 arrests had been made of which 108 were poachers and 14 were either couriers or buyers.
On Saturday morning, a policeman and a game ranger were both shot and killed in the park.
The policeman, accompanied by a soldier, was searching for rhino poachers in the park’s southern Tshokwane section at 9am when they came under fire, said police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo. “The shooting resulted in the SA Police Service member being shot and killed. In return, the defence force member fatally wounded the shooter,” said Naidoo. “It emerged later that the shooter was in fact an on-duty SA National Parks ranger.”
According to reports, on Monday Kruger National Park spokesman William Mabasa said since the start of 2011 there had been 25 shoot-outs in the park. Beeld newspaper quoted a source as saying since the anti-poaching campaign was stepped-up the park had turned into a “war zone”. It reported throwing various groups together in the fight against poaching caused mutual distrust. The newspaper also reported the source as saying rangers were specifically trained to track poachers, whereas police and soldiers were not.
On Monday, Naidoo said there were no new developments in the investigation into the past weekend’s shooting. He also felt the article distorted. He did not want to elaborate, but said the inquest into the shooting would take time and any comment now would be purely speculative.
When contacted, Mabasa said he would comment later this week.
Questionable security issues or not, our rhinos are still being killed at a rapid rate.
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has been insufficiently vocal on the national crisis. Individual units in provinces or in the private sector can contribute to combating the problem in certain localities, but rhino poaching is a broader, more complex problem. If poaching is suspended in one location, it is merely displaced elsewhere. As such, curbing rhino poaching requires strong national leadership and political will to catalyse coordination within government and between government and civil society organisations. Gareth Morgan, the Democratic Alliance spokesperson on Water and Environmental Affairs, has therefore called on the Minister to demonstrate bold leadership on this crucial matter, and to overcome the coordination failures in government.
South Africans were urged to report incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrest and prevention of illegal killing to 080-020-5005.