Musa Mntambo, speaking on behalf of Ezemvelo, said that all regions in the province were being adversely affected by poaching.
Budget cuts have left KwaZulu-Natal’s wildlife bosses unable to fill vacant posts needed in the fight against rhino poaching, a wildlife organisation said on Monday.
Despite the budget impact Ezemvelo faced, which prevented them from filling the 108 positions that are currently vacant, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman said that the organisation was still trying to fulfil its mandate of protecting the province’s wildlife heritage, including its rhino populations.
Ezemvelo spokesman Musa Mntambo said on Monday that while there had been an increase in incidents of poaching, the organisation was encouraged by arrests that had been made this year.
“What is pleasing though is to note that the number of people arrested this year has almost doubled. Last year only 55 people were arrested for rhino poaching crime whilst this year we have arrested 101 people. Thirty-three guns were recovered last year and we have recovered 56 guns to date,” said Mntambo.
He said all regions in the province were being adversely affected by poaching.
On Thursday, at a Finance Portfolio Committee mid-year review Ezemvelo board and senior management conceded that the battle against rhino poaching had become an uphill battle in the wake of budget cuts that were expected of it.
According Ezemvelo 140 rhinos have been killed this year alone in KwaZulu-Natal both in private and public game reserves. The figure shows a slight increase from last year in which 116 rhinos were killed.
Ezemvelo board chairman Advocate Comfort Ngidi told the committee that budget cuts were having a devastating impact on operations.
“Because ours is labour intensive operation, when we are told to cut costs that simply means that we have to retrench people which has a bearing on the work that we are expected to do,” said Ngidi.
The Democratic Alliance’s Francois Rodgers, who is on the committee, said he was worried that the fight against rhino poaching would not be won “under current conditions.”
He added that while KZN premier Willies Mchunu had spoken about a plan to deal with rhino poaching, there was no clear indication on the nature of the plan and how it would be rolled out.
“This a major problem. It demands that you do not just involve rangers, you should have police crime intelligence and the army because it is not about catching the small guys, but we should be trying to catch the masterminds behind this criminal activity or risk losing the entire rhino population,” said Rodgers.
He said at the current rate of killings, the rhino population could be wiped out in a few years’ time both in KZN and South Africa.
According to Ezemvelo, the staff establishment for Rangers is around less than 1000 which includes all categories of Rangers.
– African News Agency