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During the full moon period of April 10 to 14, anti-poaching units in the Kruger National Park had contact with at least three heavily armed groups of suspected rhino poachers.
South African National Parks spokesperson Reynold Thakhuli said more than six suspects were arrested over the weekend. Most of the incidents took place in the southern region of the park.
On Thursday, April 10, rangers from Crocodile Bridge apprehended two suspected poachers leaving the park. The two suspects, believed to be Zimbabwean nationals, were arrested and a G3 military-style rifle, silencer and ammunition were recovered.
“On Friday, rangers from the Kingfisherspruit area apprehended two suspected rhino poachers, leading to the arrest of one of the armed suspects,” Thakuli said. “A .458 rifle, silencer, ammunition and poaching equipment were recovered. The second suspect managed to escape.”
Tshokwane rangers apprehended two suspected rhino poachers on Saturday, April 12. One suspect was arrested and a .375 hunting rifle, ammunition and poaching equipment were recovered. The second suspect managed to escape to Mozambique.
“Sunday was a very busy day for Stolsnek rangers, when they apprehended five suspected rhino poachers. Two of the suspects were arrested with the help of SANParks Airwing and canine units. The hunt is still on for the remaining three suspects who managed to escape,” Thakuli said.
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, and the Mozambican Minister of Tourism, Mr Carvalho Muária, will sign a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park on 17 April 2014.
Mozambique is regarded as a priority country for South Africa within the SADC region and South Africa recognises the need for engaging with Mozambique on wildlife management. This is particularly with respect to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), as escalating incidences of poaching have become a major challenge within the GLTP to rhino populations.
The signing of the MOU between the two countries follows extensive negotiations, and less than a year since a bilateral meeting took place on 14 June 2013 in Maputo, Mozambique, between Minister Molewa and Minister Muária.
It was acknowledged at the June 2013 meeting that a government-to-government MOU on Cooperation in the field of Biodiversity, Conservation and Management was required to assist in addressing wildlife crimes, including rhino poaching.
The conclusion of the agreement comes as the number of rhinos poached in South Africa since the start of 2014 increased to 277. The number of alleged poachers arrested since January 1, 2014, has risen to 86.
Today, Unitrans Volkswagen Divisional Chief Executive Mr. Kevin Gillmer handed a cheque of R1 051 720 to the SANParks Honorary Rangers, celebrating the Unitrans Volkswagen financial contribution for 2013 to the Unite Against Poaching effort.
Accepting the cheque on behalf of SANParks and the Honorary Rangers, SANParks Chief Executive Dr. David Mabunda said the on-going scourge of rhino poaching in our country is an area of concern to government and ordinary people in villages and cities including corporate South Africa. “It is therefore with great humility and sense of pride that SANParks accepts the generosity presented by UNITRANS Volkswagen – this is proof that together we can do more to win the fight against rhino poaching.”
He said rhino poaching is a crime that is undoubtedly fuelled by a thriving black market trade in rhino horn. Since January this year, a total of 166 Rhinos have been poached, with 111 of them in the Kruger National Park. “It is worrying that we are still losing such a high number of rhinos throughout the country. However the most encouraging area in this whole saga is the increasing number of arrests, which stood at 343 for the country by end last year of which 133 were arrests made in the Kruger National Park.”
South Africa is home to approximately 22 000 white and black rhinoceros of which 12 000 are found in the Kruger National Park. This represents over 80% of the world’s total rhino population. The South African population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world which makes it vulnerable. South Africa is therefore the remaining hope for the world in terms of rhino conservation.
To help sustain the effort against poaching SANParks has requested the Honorary Rangers to prioritise fundraising in support of the counter poaching effort. Unitrans Volkswagen’s Unite against Poaching initiative has contributed R 6 781 250 to the SANParks’ counter poaching effort over the past three years, in partnership with the SANParks Honorary Rangers.
“Unlike many fundraising initiatives the SANParks Honorary Rangers utilise 100% of all money raised for counter poaching to help our rangers. We do not use donor money to fund our activities. As we are the South African National Parks preferred channel for counter poaching support in our National Parks, and as our parks are home to some 70% of theworld rhino population, this donation is important in the fight to save our rhinos”, says Louis Lemmer, Deputy Chairperson of the SANParks Honorary Rangers National Executive Committee.
Kevin Gillmer added, “This pledge of over a million Rand has been made possible through the support of our customers. Each vehicle sold within the group attracts a pledge directly to the Unite against Poaching fund. In this way members of the public can help make a sustainable contribution to the fight against poaching at the coal face. Unitrans Volkswagen is proud to be associated with both the financial as well as vehicle support of the war against poaching in SANParks. We continue to work in partnership with the SANParks Honorary Rangers to ensure that the pledged funds are used effectively and efficiently in approved counter poaching projects within SANParks.”
SANParks has called on corporates and individuals for extra support for the Honorary Rangers counter poaching effort in order to assist its rangers in the field. The partnership with Unitrans Volkswagen is a great example of what can be done. Through the sale of vehicles by the 10 Unitrans Volkswagen dealerships the company is able to sustain its support and make a major contribution.
The time is now for everyone to Unite Against Poaching and help ensure this precious heritage for our children’s children.