poaching syndicates Archives - Rhino Review

Big drop in rhino poaching as SA govt tackles syndicates

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Duncan Alfreds, News24 | February 4, 2020

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Rhino poaching in South Africa is on the decline as the government makes a concerted effort to battle the scourge that threatens a critically endangered species.

The decline in poaching has become an established trend as law enforcement agencies cooperated to take down syndicates operating in SA and neighbouring countries.

“A decline in poaching for five consecutive years is a reflection of the diligent work of the men and women who put their lives on the line daily to combat rhino poaching, often coming into direct contact with ruthless poachers,” said Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy.

In 2018, 769 rhino were killed for their horns, but that was reduced to 564 in 2019 – a reduction of 26%. In particular, most of the provinces saw reductions in rhino poaching. Only Limpopo and Gauteng registered increases.

Cost of Rhino Horns

At least 327 rhino were lost in the Kruger National Park alone as a result of 2,014 recorded “incursions and poacher activities”.

According to the department, rhino poaching peaked in 2014 when 1,215 rhino were killed for their horns.

Only 13 rhino were poached in 2007, the lowest number recorded since 2006.

Most of the rhino horns are illicitly shipped to east Asian markets where it commands a price higher than gold per kilogram.

On the black market in SA, rhino horn costs about $6,00 per kilogram, according to National Geographic, and up to 10 times that in Asian black markets.

This means that one of the main drivers of rhino poaching is organised crime networks.

“Because wildlife trafficking constitutes a highly sophisticated form of serious transnational organised crime that threatens national security, the aim is to establish an integrated strategic framework for an intelligence-led, well-resourced, multidisciplinary and consolidated law enforcement approach to focus and direct law enforcement’s ability supported by the whole of government and society,” said Creecy.

The department highlighted the successes law enforcement entities – including the Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit of SAPS, the Hawks, SANParks, provincial park authorities and Environmental Management Inspectors (Green Scorpions) and Customs as well as the National Prosecuting Authority – in combating rhino poaching and working to secure convictions.

In 2019, 178 poachers were arrested for rhino poaching in the Kruger Park. And nationally, 332 were arrested for both poaching and rhino horn trafficking.

Law enforcement officials confiscated 85 guns in the year and secured a number of high-profile convictions.

Syndicates Busted

In April, the Hawks arrested two men near Hartbeespoort for being in possession of 181 rhino horns. They remain in jail, pending the finalisation of their trial.

In November, three members of a syndicate were also arrested in Klerksdorp and Hartbeesfontein. They were found in possession of 100 rhino horns, as well as tiger carcasses, several weapons and ammunition.

In terms of convictions, 145 people were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to more than 15 years.

South African law enforcement agencies have also received cooperation from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan to assist in combating wildlife trafficking.

“The success of the operations demonstrates government’s ability to work together in fighting wildlife trafficking in South Africa,” said Creecy.


Alleged rhino horn poaching kingpin in court (South Africa)

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Mervyn Naidoo, The Independent Online / Sunday Tribune | February 4, 2020

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DURBAN: Former Hawks detective, Jean Pierre van Zyl Roux, is the State’s key witness in a rhino poaching trial that is due to resume at the Mtubatuba Regional Court on Tuesday.

Roux arrested Dumisani Gwala, who allegedly is a kingpin in a rhino poaching syndicate that has a strong presence in KwaZulu Natal, during a 2014 sting operation he led in Manguzi, an area near the Mozambique border.

Original photo as published by IOL: Alleged rhino horn poaching kingpin, Dumisani Gwala outside the Mtubatuba Regional Court.

Gwala along with his two accomplices, Wiseman Makeba and Aubrey Dlamini, faced 10 charges related to activities involving threatened and protected species, which included the buying and selling of rhino horns.

Gwala has two further charges to his name: resisting arrest and attempted murder. The State alleged he disarmed and tried to shoot a policeman during the 2014 bust.

After more than 20 adjournments the matter eventually began before magistrate Celumusa Zungu in April last year, with Roux as the State’s first witness.

The matter was halted temporarily, due to Dlamini being unwell. He has since passed away.

Roux is expected back in the witness stand when proceedings resume and is to be crossed examined by the legal representatives of the two accused.

In the last court sitting, attorney Zwelonke Ngwenya represented Gwala, with attorney Mpume Linda doing likewise for Makeba.

Gwala was named in the “Blood Rhino Blacklist” published in October 2017 by Saving the Wild, which is headed by wildlife activist Jamie Joseph.

The publication has been endorsed by numerous celebrities including Sir Richard Branson, Helen Clark, New Zealand’s Prime Minister and local musician Vusi Mahlasela.

In her expose, Joseph claimed that a cabal, which included magistrates, police and state prosecutors worked in concert to protect people like Gwala, who were linked to suspected poaching syndicates.

KZN’s Regional Court president, Eric Nzimande, who was heavily implicated in the “Blood Rhino Blacklist”, was suspended in October 2018.

In a recent Saving the Wild post, Joseph wrote: “This is organized crime that has infiltrated the sanctity of the courts – the rotten chunk of South Africa’s justice system, and it is bringing dishonour to the many good people who have made the pursuit of justice their life’s work.”



Senator Collins says she’s fighting to protect wild animals (Maine, US)

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Elle Ousfar, News Center Maine | December 21, 2019

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MAINE, USA: Sen. Susan Collins says she fighting to protect endangered animals by cutting off trafficking and poaching terrorists.

On Saturday, Sen. Collins announced she and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) signed the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act into law. Collins says the RAWR Act authorizes the State Department to offer financial rewards for information that destroys wildlife trafficking and poaching networks.

“Wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime that requires a coordinated and sustained global effort to effectively combat it,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan bill is one step closer to becoming law, building upon efforts to deter this illegal activity by allowing the State Department to offer rewards for information to help stop wildlife traffickers.”

“When wildlife traffickers, poachers, and profiteers kill magnificent animals like elephants, giraffes, and rhinos, they degrade critical ecosystems and rob the world of a piece of our humanity and shared history on this planet,” said Senator Merkley.

Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action says, “We applaud Senator Collins for championing a creative solution to crack down on these international crimes and are grateful for her tremendous leadership on animal protection issues across the board.”

The RAWR Act, which was first introduced back in May, is supported by many environmental and animal welfare groups.



Namibia records 51 poaching cases this year

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Xinhua | November 27, 2019

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WINDHOEK: Namibia has recorded 51 poaching incidences since January, spokesperson of the Environment and Tourism Ministry Romeo Muyunda said Wednesday.

According to the statistics, 12 elephants and 39 rhinos were poached since January. “The complexity of the poaching syndicates which have commercialized the practice makes it hard to crack down. However, we are in a process of establishing where the problems are and align our strategies accordingly,” Muyunda said.

He said the poaching incidences were recorded from mainly private and custodian farms while seven poaching incidences were recorded in the national parks namely Bwabwata, Etosha and Waterberg.

According to statistics, last year, a total of 57 rhinos and 26 elephants were poached while 120 suspected poachers were arrested.

“We are making arrests in poaching-related cases, thanks to our collaboration with the law enforcement agencies (Police and Namibia Defence Forces).

“Our strategies at the moment includes the regular patrols and intelligence at most. We want to be able to intercept poaching cases before they actually happen,” he said.

The ministry is currently lobbying for harsher punishments for those found guilty of poaching.

Last year, the ministry established an Anti-Poaching Unit to help curb poaching.

Six suspected poachers arrested at Kruger National Park

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Mpumalanga News | October 14, 2019

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SANParks has announced three successful operations in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Six suspected poachers were arrested in the park since the beginning of October.

“Three heavy-caliber hunting rifles were confiscated during the operations and the majority of the suspects were arrested before shooting any animals,” said Ike Phaahla, spokesperson of SANParks.

“In the same period there were no elephants poached, despite 55 recorded poacher activities.”

Phaahla attributes the successful operations to the dedication and efficiency of the Ranger Corps, closely supported by rapid reaction K9, aircraft units and applied hi-tech detection technologies.

Original photo as published by Mpumalanga News.

The CEO of SANParks, Fundisile Mketeni, has commended all those involved in the operations, saying, “We are still miles away from being on top of this campaign, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Our investment in technology and intelligence gathering means the risk to poachers has increased, and they know that if we pick up their spoor, they will lose their freedom.

The Rangers Corps, K9 and Airwing units are working relentlessly in coordinated approach, which is being continually refined to counter the threat posed by the poaching syndicates, and for that we are grateful.”

Mketeni urged communities to continue providing vital information to assist in curbing the scourge of poaching.

He warned criminals that they are constantly under scrutiny and will soon end up behind bars if they do not stop their illegal activities. He cautioned communities to stop supporting the bush meat trade, which has caused an increase in snares in the KNP.

All arrested suspects are detained at the Skukuza Police Station and will appear in court in due course.