antipoaching Archives - Rhino Review

Greater transparency needed from a badly bruised ministry.

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Last week I reflected on South Africa’s dismal showing in The Breaking Point–Uncovering South Africa’s Shameful Live Wildlife Trade with China. This hard-hitting report will have left Minister Barbara Creecy and her colleagues in South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries smarting at the government’s failure to apply its strong regulatory powers and, by design or neglect, to allow thousands of animals to be exported to China.

To her credit, Minister Creecy did immediately meet with the authors of the report. But, somewhat predictably, little beyond a few vague assurances resulted. There was certainly no willingness to engage in policy discussions or a moratorium on the international export of live wild animals.

Ms. Creecy must have been relieved, therefore, to have had some diverting news. She was able to report that April this year “saw a marked decrease in rhino poaching countrywide. In Kruger, there were fewer rhinos poached than in any single month since September 2013.” She would be unwise to set too much store by this, however, as any respite might well prove to be very temporary. As travel restrictions ease as the country attempts to revive its economy in the wake of Covid-19, few would be surprised not to see a resurgence of rhino killings.

Neighboring Zimbabwe has already noted a spike in wildlife poaching as the wildlife management efforts have been redirected towards combating the spread of Covid-19. Let’s not forget that Zimbabwe’s poaching spike in 2008 was a warning of what was to follow in South Africa.

And although poaching is unlikely to reach the awful levels of 2013–2017, they will undoubtedly stretch the financing of anti-poaching efforts to the limit. Particularly so, given that meeting the costs of conservation security is so heavily dependent on tourism income, which for several months now has been non-existent. The economic knock-on of this is painfully evident in claims that as many as 600,000 tourism-related jobs are threatened in South Africa.

The same press release states that, by the end of 2019, the number of rhino births for the year in Kruger had equaled the combined natural and poaching deaths. It has been five long years since this last happened—a sad reflection on how ruthless and prolonged the attack on rhinos has been.

During the 11 years from 2009 to the end of 2019, some 8,372 rhinos fell to poachers in South Africa. A total of 5,048 of them happened in the Kruger National Park. There would, of course, also have been natural mortalities. These would have been higher than the average because of the twin stresses of prolonged drought and the rhinos’ susceptibility to tuberculosis.

Furthermore, there is collateral damage from poaching. Many young calves would have perished alongside their mothers. A number of the slaughtered adult females would have been pregnant at the time of their death, and some of the unborn offspring would have been females. All brutally removed from the potential breeding pool for no reason other than insatiable greed.

The effects of the poaching scourge are sobering.

In 2011, South African National Parks (SANParks) reported that the Kruger’s White Rhinos appeared to have leveled off at approximately 10,600 animals. Then, in 2016, a survey using “the scientifically accepted block count method” recorded that a total of 6,649 – 7,830 White Rhinos lived in the Park, a drop of more than 1,600 from the previous year. And the decline continued throughout 2017. At the end of that year, White Rhino numbers in the Kruger had dropped to somewhere between 4,759 and 5,532 individuals. The shocking reality is that in six years, Kruger’s White Rhino population fell from 10,600 to as few as 4,759—a 55 percent crash.

Some commentators feel that even these figures are high. In 2015, Dr. Salomon Joubert, former head of Kruger, estimated that there were only some 6,000 White Rhinos. Wildlife vet Dr. Kobus du Toit was even more pessimistic, saying that he put the total population at somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000.

Black Rhinos in Kruger are far fewer in number and have fared better, and it seems that they were less affected by the recent drought conditions. The count for 2017 was 427 to 586. These are the descendants of a founder population of 90 individuals originally from KwaZulu Natal.

Kruger’s conservation team stands by their grid pattern population counting methods, but these have been questioned along with the length of time between annual counts and the release of the results. It is understandable, therefore, that there is a great deal of speculation as to the “real” population figures for White Rhinos in the Park.

If Ms. Creecy wishes to regain some much-needed kudos for her rather bruised ministry, she must reverse its historical unwillingness to share statistics timeously and openly. Not to do so will only lead to further, mostly negative, speculation.

Her most sensible course of action would be to show greater transparency in all matters to do with her department. And in respect of rhinos, to allow an independent population count to take place in Kruger.


Watch: Vet shares inspiring story of black rhino that survived poaching attempt (South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Rescue and rehab No Comments
Stefan de Villiers, Lowvelder | May 22, 2020

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It is believed that there are just over 5,000 black rhinos left in the world, critically endangered.

Thus, the survival of each and every one of the species is paramount to its continued existence.

This is why a dedicated team has been doing everything in their power to ensure the well-being of Goose, a female black rhino, who escaped the clutches of poachers near Satara Rest Camp in 2018.
“It soon became obvious that she had severe injuries on her hind leg. It is suspected that she was shot by poachers. After her foot got infected, the sole of her foot fell off,” said SANParks veterinarian, Peter Buss, who in the video below shares the in-depth details of her recovery.

“She will never have a normal foot again due to the extent of her injuries. We hope that she will be able to walk on it again, and hopefully later have calves,” said Buss.

He is part of a large team of vets, rangers and specialist animal carers who in collaboration with Saving the Survivors have spent the past 20 months using groundbreaking techniques to ensure the rhino’s survival.

Limerick man accused of rhino horn trafficking extradited to US

By Antipoaching, Illegal trade No Comments
Paul Neilan, The Irish Times | May 22, 2020

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A Limerick man has been extradited to the United States to face allegations of trafficking endangered rhino horns after an early morning arrest by 20 armed gardaí, the High Court has heard.

John Slattery (30), who changed his name to John Flynn by deed poll, of Old Barrack View, Fairhill, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, is accused of three offences of wildlife trafficking in the US.

At Friday’s High Court sitting, Mr Justice Paul Burns heard Mr Slattery had been arrested in the early hours of the morning before the court hearing, even though he was still on bail, and that he was to be taken to a Texas prison.

Mr Slattery’s bail was due to expire on Friday at midnight. It had been granted on condition that he present himself to Henry Street Garda station in Limerick within 24 hours of being notified. His extradition was delayed due to coronavirus.

Taxidermy Shop

US authorities allege he and two others travelled to a taxidermy shop in Austin, Texas, to buy the horns for $18,000 (€16,500) and then travelled to New York and sold them for $50,000 (€45,900). It is alleged that between April 2010 and November 2010 Mr Slattery bought two further horns for $10,000 (€9,100).

At Friday’s High Court hearing, counsel for the Minister for Justice, Lisa Dempsey BL, confirmed Mr Slattery had been “surrendered to the US authorities”.

Barrister Mark Lynam, for Mr Slattery, told the court he was “uneasy about how matters have transpired”. “Mr Slattery was taken from his home this morning by, I’m told, 20 armed gardaí,” Mr Lynam said. “He was taken from his home and put on a plane. I’m very surprised it happened that way because Mr Slattery is someone who is in a high-risk category in respect of Covid-19.

“He’s going to a prison in Texas and there’s been a reported 40 deaths in prisons in Texas in the last two weeks,” he said. Ms Dempsey said his case was “dealt with in a manner deemed appropriate” by the Garda.

Rhino poaching drops significantly during COVID-19 lockdown

By Antipoaching No Comments
The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries | May 22, 2020

The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has announced that South Africa has experienced a significant decline in rhino poaching since the lockdown commenced.

April 2020 saw a marked decrease in rhino poaching countrywide, with the fewest rhinos poached in the Kruger National Park in a single month since September 2013.

“This could be attributed to the reduction in rhino poaching activities to the disruption of the supply chain resulting from the national travel restrictions, including limitations placed on movement across the country,” explained Minister Creecy.

A total of 14 rhino were poached across the country during April – the first month of the national Covid-19 lockdown. A total of 46 rhino were poached nationwide in March 2020.

“We believe that the closure of our borders and the complete shutdown of international air travel removed the key way that syndicates used to supply horn to transit and consumer countries,” said Minister Creecy.

In the Kruger National Park five rhino were poached during April 2020, compared to 46 in April 2019.   In KwaZulu-Natal six rhino were poached, two were killed in Mpumalanga and one in North West Province. In April 2019, a total of 61 rhino were poached nationwide.

Significantly, not a single rhino has been lost in the Intensive Protection Zone of the Kruger National Park since the start of April. This has not happened in this particular part of the Greater Kruger area in a single month since 2007.

The sharp decrease in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park last month comes after the park recorded that the number of births equalled the combined natural and poaching deaths for the first time in five years by the end of 2019.

Despite the lockdown, incursions into the Park by rhino poachers have continued.

There has been an increase in the effectiveness of the K9 unit using free running hounds supported by rapid reaction through air support and improved mobility.

Minister Creecy applauded Rangers who continue to apply technology to support early detection and follow-up operations.

Between January and April 2020, 33 poachers were arrested and 20 heavy calibre firearms confiscated.

Following an intelligence-driven operation, police arrested three suspects in Limpopo after they were found in possession of six rhino horn. The two men and a woman have been changed with trafficking of rhino horn.  During the arrest, six rhino horn, a sizeable amount of cash, three vehicles and a number of hunting knives were confiscated.

Pertaining to bushmeat poaching, rangers continue to remove between 80 and 150 snares from especially the western boundary of the park.  It should be noted that poaching for bushmeat in the Kruger National Park has not increased because of the lockdown.

Because of the nationwide lockdown, SANParks has closed park entrance gates to tourists.  This has had an impacted on poaching as poachers are now unable to use drive-in and drop-off tactics they had previously utilised to kill rhino for their horn.

“The dedication of essential staff, particularly our rangers, anti-poaching and canine (K9) teams who remain on high alert in all our national parks during the Covid-19 national lockdown, is to be commended,” said the Minister.

Chi Initiative partners with Da Nang local government to reduce demand for wildlife products (Viet Nam

By Conservation, Demand Reduction No Comments

Traffic | May 20, 2020

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DA NANG, VIET NAM: TRAFFIC’s Chi Initiative has partnered with the People’s Committee of Da Nang City to place public service announcements (PSAs) against illegal wildlife consumption in 13 strategic locations around the city, including the Da Nang International Airport, for six months. The PSAs, which have been on display in the city since March, will be seen by an estimated 8.7 million residents and visitors.

The Chi Initiative is a social and behaviour change communication campaign created by TRAFFIC and funded by the USAID Wildlife Asia project aimed at reducing demand for rhino horn and other illegal wildlife products. The initiative targets wealthy Vietnamese businessmen—a key market segment that, based on consumer research conducted by USAID in Vietnam in 2018, consumes illegal wildlife products as a display of wealth/social status and/or for perceived health benefits.

The Chi Initiative reminds all Vietnamese that success and health come from one’s own life choices rather than from illegal wildlife products. The health messages are especially timely in light of the recent spread of the COVID-19 virus, which scientists believe may have been transmitted to humans through exposure to illegal wildlife.

“USAID is pleased to be working together with the People’s Committee of Da Nang to strengthen efforts to end illegal wildlife consumption in Da Nang and help protect the health of Vietnamese citizens and the wellbeing of threatened species around the world,” said USAID/Vietnam Mission Director Michael Greene.

The Da Nang City People’s Committee joined the Chi Initiative to boost efforts to counter the consumption of illegal wildlife products. Through the Committee’s involvement, eight PSAs are being displayed free of charge at the Da Nang Airport and on LED screens in five locations around the city. The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Da Nang, a long-standing Chi Initiative partner, helped organise the displays.

“There has never been a more critical time to endorse Chi messages. They remind us of the strength and resilience of our people, which are so important as we collectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Our partnership with USAID is a continuing effort to make Da Nang illegal wildlife free, which is critical to the sustainable development of the city,” said Mr. Nguyen Tien Quang, Director of VCCI Da Nang.

Da Nang City was identified by a USAID 2018 consumer research as a consumption hotspot for illegal wildlife products and has been the site of many recent wildlife seizures, including a record-breaking 9.1-ton ivory seizure in March 2019. The Initiative has already had successes in the region. Chi workshops held in 2019 have inspired three managers of local resorts to become champions against illegal wildlife consumption by holding counter wildlife trafficking (CWT) training sessions for their staff and displaying CWT messages in their workplaces.

Amid lockdown, poaching attempts increase rapidly across India

By Antipoaching No Comments
Reethu Ravi, The Logical Indian | May 17, 2020

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In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, with officials focusing on enforcing lockdown and the public confined to their homes, instances of poaching have seen a sharp rise across India.

According to reports, armed poachers have been moving inside national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country. As officials also depend on local people to receive tip-offs on suspicious activity, the lockdown has inadvertently cut down such tip-offs which the poachers have taken advantage of.

In a recent case, an adult male Indian rhinoceros was found gunned down and its horn hacked off at Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in Assam on Saturday, May 9.

This is reportedly the first incident in thirteen months, after a drastic decrease in poaching since 2019. Upon investigation, the park authorities found eight empty bullet cartridges from an AK-47 assault rifle at the scene suggesting that the crime was well-organised.

“The carcass of the adult male rhino was found by our personnel on Saturday evening at the Agaratoli range of the park with its horn missing. It seems the poaching incident took place on Wednesday,” P Sivakumar, Director of KNP, was quoted by Hindustan Times.

“This is the first case of use of AK-47 rifles to kill rhino in the Agaratoli range of the park. Only trained groups who know how to handle such arms can indulge in such kind of poaching. We suspect they had come from the nearby Karbi Anglong district,” he added.

According to reports, due to the lockdown, wildlife is moving closer to human habitations, making them vulnerable to poachers. The lack of vehicles on the highway near KNP has also witnessed animals moving closer to the boundaries. Officials say that since the start of the lockdown in late March, attempts of poaching have increased in and around the park. Since then, at least six attempts to kill the rare animals were thwarted by park rangers and the Special Rhino Protection Force (SRPF) set up by the state government.

According to The Hindu report, on April 11, an SRPF member suffered bullet injuries during an encounter with a group of poachers in the Biswanath division of KNP. Two days later, the police in Biswanath district arrested six people for attempted poaching and assault.

Further, on April 13, the police in Sonitpur district arrested five people involved in attempted poaching at the Nameri National Park. “Lockdown appears to have given rhino poachers free time to regroup and plan strikes in Kaziranga after more than a year.

The poachers know there will be demand for rhino horns in China and other consumer countries in Asia after the pandemic-induced slump is over,” KNP Director P. Sivakumar told the media. Hunters can earn nearly $150,000 for one rhino horn or around $60,000 per kilo on a black market.

According to police officials, the detained poachers had confessed that they planned to “stock up on animal body parts” during the ongoing “lean period” to strike it big when the demand from smugglers increases. Since July last year, the SRPF have been deployed across the park to keep a check on rhino poaching and related activities. Since 2016, poaching of the one-horned rhinos fell to a drastic low.

Only 3 poaching incidents were reported in 2019, with the last one being reported on April 1, 2019. Following the poaching incident of the rhino, Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Parveen Kaswan, in a series of tweets, explained why the Indian one-horned rhinos are vulnerable to poaching. “The Indian one-horned rhino, despite being blessed with a thick hide/skin, has a major disadvantage: an abysmally poor eye-sight.

Hence, it demarcates its “territory” by its dung/excreta and it triangulates its destination via the smell of its dung,” he tweeted. “So, if u want to catch this majestic beast, all u need to do is simply find patches of rhino’s dung in marshy/swampy lands.

Poachers precisely exploit these two traits of a rhino: its poor eyesight and its territorial imprint with its dung. Once they find traces of rhino dung, they lay traps for the rhino in and around that area by digging the ground,” he added. He further added that peak time to poach a rhino is between 1 Am and 3:30 Am, as the pitch darkness, combined with the poor eye-sight of the rhinos, makes them fall into the trap laid by the poachers.

“The Rhino, despite its tough skin across the body, has relatively softer skin around its horn. So, the poachers inject tranquillizer in the soft area around the horn & once, it phases out due to soporific sedatives, the poacher cuts the horn with a razor-sharp knife, that is specifically designed for this purpose,” Kaswan said.

“If the cut is made on its skull such that no nerve has been damaged, then, under medication and care, the rhino can regrow its horn in 2-3 yrs. But if any connecting nerve has been ripped off, while pulling the horn out, I’m afraid there is no hope,” he added.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan has also seen an increase in poaching of wildlife across the state. In over the last one month, the wildlife flying squad of the Rajasthan forest department has registered six cases of illegal hunting of chinkara(Indian gazelle) – the state animal – in Jodhpur.

Six poachers were also arrested. Chinkaras are designated an endangered animal under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protecting Act, 1972. In a recent incident on Sunday, May 10, 17-year-old Mukesh Bishnoi fought off armed poachers, who shot a chinkara in Jodhpur.

For his bravery, the teenager was also given a certificate of appreciation by the Akhil Bharatiya Bishnoi Mahasabha. Mukesh, along with team member Pukhraj, had gone for night patrol when the incident occurred. They are a part of the 15-member team who protects the chinkara and has been going on night patrol every day to keep vigil since the lockdown started, reported Hindustan Times. Other than chinkara, blackbuck, mongoose, and peacocks have also been poached in many parts of the country.

According to a Down To Earth report, the illegal transport of birds has also increased amid lockdown, with trading conducted at the Nepal border through Uttar Pradesh. For hunting wild animals, including a tiger and deer, people were also arrested Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Meanwhile, on April 30, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate, issued an advisory to all the states and union territories to check poaching in all reserves, parks, and sanctuaries. Following this, Rajasthan Forest and Wildlife Department has ramped up efforts to protect animals.

They have identified 16 species which have been subject to illegal trading and poaching. The species in the list will be monitored and their population will be kept under strict vigil.

Jaldapara’s oldest guard elephant dies at 90 (State of West Bengal, India)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Tourism No Comments
Krishnendu Mukherjee, The Times of India | May 4, 2020

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KOLKATA: Jaldapara National Park, which has the highest number of rhinos in West Bengal, lost one of its foot soldiers on Sunday. Madhubala, the oldest guard elephant of the park, died in Moiradanga area in the morning due to old age. She was 90.

Original photo as published by The Times of India. Madhubala served Jaldapara National Park for 50 years.

Talking to TOI, state’s chief wildlife warden Ravi Kant Sinha said Madhubala had lost the last set of molar teeth recently. “She was born in 1930 and was purchased by the forest department some time in 1969-70. She served the park for 50 years, patrolled different beat areas during its career, and gave birth to eight calves in the park. The park pays tribute to its oldest guard of 50 long years for outstanding, untiring service,” he added.

Talking about some of Madhubala’s greatest achievements, Sinha said her role was commendable during the rhino vaccination drive in 1992, when a wild elephant had died of anthrax in the park. “The park had only 33 rhinos at that time. Since an elephant had died of anthrax, we didn’t want to take any chances and decided to vaccinate the rhinos. Madhubala played a key role as our foresters went on vaccinating (through darts) at least 23 rhinos in the park,” the chief wildlife warden said. The park, he added, is now home to more than 230 rhinos.

Usually, an elephant is not put to work by the department once it turns 65. “But Madhubala had to be roped in recently following the mysterious deaths of five rhinos. We had to vaccinate a few rhinos after the recent deaths,” the officer said. According to Sinha, an elephant has six sets of molar teeth. “After losing her last set recently, Madhubala couldn’t even eat,” he said.

Madhubala, a source said, was also occasionally used for tourism activities. Jaldapara now has 93 guard elephants while Gorumara and Buxa have 18 and 2 jumbos respectively.

Meanwhile, a male rhino, about 30 years old, was sedated, treated and revived successfully in Jaldapara on Sunday. The rhino was injured while fighting with another; it had deep gash wounds, a senior official said.

Stop destroying the environment or face deadlier pandemics, scientists warn

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Illegal trade No Comments
Paula Froelich, The New York Post | May 2, 2020

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Environmentalists and scientists issued dire warnings this week: Stop environmental destruction and the illegal wildlife trade now — or face another pandemic that could wipe out civilization.

On Monday, Professors Josef Settele, Sandra Díaz and Eduardo Brondizio, along with Dr. Peter Daszak, wrote an article for The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) titled: “COVID-19 Stimulus Measures Must Save Lives, Protect Livelihoods, and Safeguard Nature to Reduce the Risk of Future Pandemics.”

Original photo as published by The New York Post. The corpse of a slaughtered rhino lays on the ground in a national park in South Africa.

The scientists warned that “Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people. This often occurs in areas where communities live that are most vulnerable to infectious diseases.”

The scientists then pointed out that animal-to-human diseases that already exist, like Ebola, rabies or avian flu, already “cause an estimated 700,000 deaths each year.” Deaths in 2020 will skyrocket due to COVID-19, but if nature isn’t protected and animals aren’t isolated from humans, the next pandemic, they warn, will be worse.

“Future pandemics are likely to happen more frequently, spread more rapidly, have greater economic impact and kill more people if we are not extremely careful about the possible impacts of the choices we make today,” the scientists write.

Peter Knights, the CEO of WildAid, a conservation organization that works to end illegal poaching and consumption of wild animals, agrees. He told the Post: “Sixty percent of infectious diseases originate in animals and are transferred to humans … and the risks are increasing with deforestation and climate change. When someone logs in a rainforest and builds roads into the wild, we come into contact with species we aren’t supposed to. Humans then drive these animals into big cities and sell them at live markets, where the risks increase when you stress these animals or mix these species together.”

Some scientists believe the COVID-19 pandemic started in a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, possibly jumping from humans via bats or perhaps pangolins, the world’s most trafficked animal.

“The way these cross-species jump happened is by mixing species that wouldn’t mix in the wild; they transmit diseases in close contact and under stress,” said Knights, who has started a petition calling for the end of wildlife poaching. “The wildlife trade is associated with disease. SARS [allegedly] came from bats via civets cats; HIV was [allegedly] transferred to humans via the bushmeat trade in monkeys and chimpanzees, and now COVID-19 is believed to come from bats, possibly transferred through pangolins.”

The recent decimation of the tourism industry has led to a huge uptick in poaching, which exacerbates the problem. According to the New York Times: “Heads of poaching gangs in Mozambique are planning to take advantage of reduced ranger patrols and the lack of tourists in Kruger National Park in neighboring South Africa.”

Meanwhile, CNBC reports: “In Botswana, at least six rhinos have been poached since the virus shut down tourism there … In northwest South Africa, at least nine rhinos have been killed since the virus lockdown.”

The killings affect multiple generations, as many of the rhino babies left behind either starve, are killed by other wild animals or end up in a rhino orphanage.

Even more poaching recruits are expected to sign up in the coming months.

“African countries are in dire economic straits,” Knights said. “There are a lot of unemployed people, and without tourists on safari or people working in lodges, you have less surveillance. We’re very concerned that is what is leading to the poaching spike.”

Knights and his team have been working non-stop with the governments of China and Vietnam — the largest procurers of illegally poached animals and animal parts — to try and stop this trade at the source.

“There is a demand from China and Vietnam for these exotic animals as they have traditions of eating wild animals. The size of their economies fuels a large trade,” Knights said. “But the governments are much more ready to act now than they were five years ago.”

In January, China imposed a ban on all farming and consumption of “terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value,” which is expected to be signed into law later this year.

After conservationists sent an open letter to Vietnam’s prime minister recommending action against the wildlife trade as a means of preventing future outbreaks of disease, that country — where wildlife restaurants have bats, civet cats, snakes, bear, monkeys and pangolins on the menu — is also looking to stop importing imperiled animals to eat.

And recently, both China and Vietnam introduced airport detection systems that can help expose someone trying to smuggle in animal parts. It’s already helped in efforts to curb the ivory trade: In early April, 11 large rhino horns were seized in Vietnam after a flight from Hong Kong was diverted from Ho Chi Minh city to Can Tho.

“Many people in China [and Vietnam] find this illegal wildlife trade as abhorrent as everyone in the west,” Knights said. “When the coronavirus broke out there was a tremendous uproar. But in a country of 1.4 billion, you don’t need that many bad actors to have (a huge impact).”

Paula Froelich is the founder and editor of the online travel magazine for women, A Broad Abroad. Instagram @pfro.

Hawks pounce on suspects ‘in possession of six rhino horns’

By Antipoaching No Comments
Azarrah Karrim, News24 | April 26, 2020

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Three people have been remanded in custody in Mpumalanga after they were allegedly found in possession of six rhino horns, according to the Hawks.

Two men and one woman aged 24 to 34 were arrested on Friday and three vehicles, money and the rhino horns were seized, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said on Sunday.

Original photo as published by Media 24. Six rhino horns were seized at a house in Mpumalanga. (Supplied by SAPS)

The intelligence-driven operation comprised the Hawks, detectives, Crime Intelligence, Tactical Response Team, Tracking Team and the Local Criminal Record Centre, Mulaudzi said.


After it emerged the three were allegedly dealing in rhino horn, law enforcement launched an investigation.

“The team obtained a search and seizure warrant and descended on the suspects’ house in Clau-Clau.

“On arrival at the premises, an intensive search commenced, and members located a number of hunting knives in one of the three vehicles that were parked inside the yard.

“They also uncovered a sizeable amount of money inside the house.”

Law enforcement searched the suspects’ yard and found the six rhino horns hidden outside a restroom.

“The horns are believed to be sets from three dead rhinos,” he added.

Arrests commended

“The suspects are expected to appear before Kabokweni Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday for illegal possession of rhino horns in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act. Investigations are still continuing,” Mulaudzi said.

Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya said the unit would continue to act against those involved in poaching.

“The DPCI [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation] shall continue to deal decisively with those who are involved in poaching these species.”


Judges slate Mpumalanga regional court president over court saga, inappropriate email (South Africa)

By Antipoaching, Law & legislation No Comments
Buks Viljoen, News24 | April 22, 2020

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“[I] chose to ignore the directives” and “you will hear from me”.

These were the words written by Naomi Engelbrecht, the regional court president of Mpumalanga, in an email she sent to Judge President Francis Legodi of the Mpumalanga High Court after she was slated by a full Bench in a verdict delivered in Mbombela on Wednesday.

The judges said the use of such language by Engelbrecht was inappropriate, disrespectful, and unnecessary belligerent towards Legodi.

She also irked the ministers of justice and environment, forestry and fisheries as well as the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions and environmentalists when she decided to close the Skukuza Regional Court.

Vital Role

Over the years, the court has played a vital role in the fight against rhino poaching and bringing poachers to justice.

However, after two years of threatening to close it, Engelbrecht did just that with immediate effect in August last year.

She was of the view, among others, the court building had not been proclaimed a legitimate regional court.

Engelbrecht instructed all rhino-related cases to be moved to the court in Mhala, Bushbuck Ridge, which is about 100km from Skukuza.

Despite a public outcry against her decision, she refused to reverse it.


After the crisis came to his attention, Legodi tried to convince Engelbrecht to reverse her decision as he believed she did not have the authority to make the call. She once again refuse.

Legodi, as her senior in the justice system, then gave her official instructions (directives) to move the court back to Skukuza.

It was during this period that Engelbrecht told Legodi she “chose to ignore the directives”. She also claimed he was not authorised to prescribe to her, as regional court president, what to do.

In December, when an urgent application was brought by the director of public prosecutions in the court in Mhala to have cases moved back to Skukuza, Engelbrecht decided to preside over the application herself.

She rejected it and, among others, said the directives given to her by Legodi to move the court and cases back to Skukuza was null and void, adding she would not implement them.


Legodi then called for a motion to review the case and for the lingering conflict between him and Engelbrecht to be heard by a full Bench.

In February this year, the motion was brought in front of Judge Bernard Ngoepe, the retired judge president of the North Gauteng High Court, retired Judge Cynthia Pretorius and acting Judge Moira Mankge.

All parties involved in the motion, except for two, supported it.

Advocate Kgama Shai said in court he was appearing on behalf of rhino poachers as well as Engelbrecht.

In a unanimous verdict on Wednesday, the judges ruled the court in Skukuza was legitimate, the instruction given to Engelbrecht by Legodi was valid and binding, and her decision to reject the State’s application to have cases moved back to Skukuza was invalid and thus overturned.

The judges also ordered the verdict should be forwarded to the magistrate’s commission for further action.

Neither the commission nor Engelbrecht responded to questions sent to them.