Briefing the media in Parliament‚ Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said 529 rhino have been poached since January‚ compared to 542 in the same period for 2016.
The Kruger National Park‚ which has “traditionally borne the brunt of poaching” has recorded a decrease of 34%‚ with 243 incidents recorded in the first half of the year‚ compared with 354 in the same period last year.
Molewa however indicated that as government and law enforcement stepped up their efforts in the Kruger National Park‚ poachers were moving into other provinces‚ particularly KwaZulu-Natal.
Molewa said that there also appeared to be an “emerging threat” as 30 elephants were poached in the Kruger National Park so far this year‚ compared with 46 elephant poaching incidents recorded for the whole of 2016.
The department says it is taking these incidents seriously and applying the lessons learned in rhino poaching to curb further threats to the South African elephant population.
Molewa said a total of 359 arrests of alleged poachers and traffickers had been made this year‚ 90 of these inside the Kruger National Park and 112 adjacent to the park.
Since January‚ 15 cases have been finalised‚ resulting in 22 convictions and a combined 95 years in prison sentences handed down.
In detailing some of the finalised cases‚ Molewa said stiff sentences were being handed down in cases even where no rhinos had been killed‚ but where the suspects were caught trespassing and in possession of firearms and ammunition.
Among these‚ was the State v Ndlovu case finalised last month in which a sentence of 19 years was handed down for trespassing‚ possession of an unlicensed firearm and illegal immigration.
By BIANCA CAPAZORIO