Indeed, a total of 132 people had been arrested for rhino poaching, according to the minister. However, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega said police had recorded 64 arrests in protected areas while 66 people were arrested outside protected areas. The discrepancy was attributed to different timelines employed by the police and Department of Environmental Affairs.
Phiyega also noted 29 firearms and 15 horns had been recovered between January and April.
It bodes well for the forces involved in combating poaching, compared to 22 horn and 66 firearms recovered in 2014.
Still, arrests and recovery results remain reactive numbers and speak little to the results of pro-active actions. “Through the ages, the only good generals were those who win,” said KNP anti-poaching head Major General (retired) Johan Jooste.
“The other generals are forgotten and this is a reality check. The only measure ultimately of a win are numbers down. I think however one must have the perspective of the rapid increase of this crime. Just to stay roughly in line with that takes a huge effort and we have got to do it. To stay abreast of it, that is what we have to strive for,” Jooste said, adding about 900 poacher groups entered the park. “That is a conservative guess.” There are usually three people in a group.
Jooste said the KNP was well resourced and that keeping the numbers this low was no mean feat.
“One can arguably say that in a park that big one can put in more rangers. But to put more rangers in Kruger would be a totally different paradigm,” Jooste said.
“We are well resourced in terms of equipment, training, an airwing and K9 unit that was expanded, and the new capacity of the special rangers,” said Jooste.
Molewa noted three of seven villages in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park had been resettled by Mozambican authorities, which had also launched its own environmental police.
Capacity building for anti-poaching operations and control of illegal trafficking would be addressed, said the minister.
Acting head of the Hawks Major General Ntlemeza said a decision had been made to attach investigators to the national task team under General Vinesh Monoo to deal with the higher echelons of poaching syndicates.
“I can say without fear in KNP we are doing very well in terms of dealing with the actual issue. I’m not talking about those people who are arrested for selling or hunting horns, I’m talking about those people who are planning. Very soon, you will hear good news,” Ntlemeza promised.
There have been seven convictions of poachers this year, with Mandla Chauke receiving the harshest sentence of 30 years for a 2011 poaching case.