Over the past three weeks, 36 suspects, between 22 and 40 years of age, were arrested for crimes related to rhino poaching.
“The Rhino 8 Task Team has been relentless in its effort to bring the down scourge of rhino poaching in the country, particularly in the Kruger National Park and Hluhluwe Game Reserve,” said police spokesperson, Brig Vishnu Naidoo.
“The task team, which comprises of various government departments including members from various disciplines of the South African Police Service, Customs and Excise, the South African National Defence Force, Ezemvelo and SANParks Game Rangers, continues to work tirelessly to stop the merciless slaughter and dehorning of rhinos as well as that of elephants.”
He said that since the beginning of October to date, some members of the task team were able to arrest the 36 suspects in the areas of Acornhoek, Calcutta, Hazyview, Elukwatini and Skhukuza (Mpumalanga); Hluhluwe, Mtubatuba (kwaZulu-Natal) and Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa (Limpopo).
“During these arrests the team also confiscated four motor vehicles including a VW Golf, a Ford Ranger Wildtrack, a Nissan Navara; 12 unlicensed firearms including rifles; a variety of ammunition, silencers, a hacksaw, axes, knives, 27 cellphones and three rhino horns as well an elephant tusk,” added Brig Naidoo.
“Most of these suspects have since appeared in various courts on charges of unlawful possession of firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of dangerous weapon/s, trespassing, hunting a protected animal, kidnapping, assault, possession of remains of a wild animal, in terms of the Immigration Act for either being illegally in the country/without proper documentation and/or possession of suspected stolen property.”
He said that despite a multitude of arrests by the Rhino 8 Task Team, there still seems to be greater persistence by suspects wanting to poach rhino.
“It is with hoped that the arrest of these 36 suspects would serve as a warning and deterrent to other potential poachers.
“The strategies we have in place now are intended to significantly reduce the chances of poachers. We applaud the communities for their continued support in fighting this scourge,” added Brig Naidoo.
“With this growing help from the communities, the days of poachers are certainly numbered. Poachers are warned that over and above facing criminal prosecution, we are coming after their ill-gotten gains in terms of the POCA (Prevention of Organized Crime Act 121/1998).”
In July, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, while reporting back on the progress of the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management Approach of Rhinoceros, announced that a total of 529 rhinos have been poached since January 2017 while 359 alleged poachers and traffickers were arrested nationally.