Battle to halt poaching gets airport boost

rhinoThe fight against rhino horn smuggling is being expanded to cover airports.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Green Scorpions would soon be stationed at the Oliver Tambo International Airport as part of a new initiative to fight rhino poaching, which claimed 1 215 animals last year.

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said that over the last couple of months, 56 rhino had been moved from the Kruger National Park to an intensive protection zone.

To date, no animals had been poached in this zone. A further 100 rhino had been moved to two neighbouring states, while there were plans to translocate 200 rhino both internationally and to private owners in South Africa.

Molewa also announced increased funding for forensic technology that will include an SAPS environmental forensic laboratory.

Cutting-edge technologies, including unmanned aircraft, were also being developed, and could find international markets.

Molewa said that while the number of animals killed last year was the highest ever, there had been an increase in the number of poachers arrested to 386. The conviction rate for last year was 61%. General Johan Jooste, commanding officer of special projects at SANParks, said the war against poaching was not being won but the rate of poaching in the Kruger had dropped.

However, there were still as many as 80 poaching incursions a month into the park.

-Shaun Smillie

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