rhino poaching crimes Archives - Rhino Review

Two poachers killed after being caught by KZN game park’s hi-tech cameras (South Africa)

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The Independent Online | March 17, 2020

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DURBAN: Cutting-edge technology has been linked to intercepting a poaching incident at a provincial game park earlier this month.

Environmental Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said two poachers were shot dead in Hluhluwe- iMfolozi Park because they used cutting-edge technology.

Dube-Ncube said the technology was inspired by the 4th Industrial Revolution to protect KwaZulu-Natal’s wildlife and eco-tourism.

She said staff at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Peace Parks Foundation and the national Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries had been working hard to install a number of technologies in the Hluhluwe- iMfolozi Park. This had been part of a long-term strategy aimed at protecting the rhino population.

Original image by The Independent Online: The three suspected rhino poachers were caught on a camera that used artificial intelligence.

“We have decided to invest in Smart Park connectivity and the integration of systems to ensure early detection and rapid response. One of the key instruments being used is the installation of infrared trap cameras linked directly to the Parks Operational Centre,” said Dube-Ncube.

“These cameras using artificial intelligence identify people and send an immediate alert to the Operations Centre who then rapidly alert and activate the relevant Reaction Unit and associated resources,” said Dube-Ncube.

The MEC said the incident earlier in the month where two poachers were shot and died at the scene, while a third escaped, was an example of the technology at work.

“An infrared camera detected three armed poaching suspects and automatically alerted the Operations Centre, providing the number of persons, grid reference and direction of the incursion. The Reaction Unit was immediately briefed and dispatched. The suspects were located in the area and challenged. The Reaction Unit members who came under immediate threat defended themselves, which resulted in the two suspects being fatally wounded,” Dube-Ncube said.

She said police managed to recover a heavy calibre hunting rifle and knives commonly used to remove rhino horns. One of the fatally wounded suspects was a well-known high-level rhino poaching suspect. He had been charged for the illegal possession of rhino horn in 2017. He had also been suspected of not only being directly responsible for a number of rhino deaths but of co-ordinating other Mpumalanga poaching groups to target Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Ezemvelo spokespers­­on Musa Mntambo said 28 rhinos had been poached in KZN since the start of the year.

KZN police on the hunt for fleeing rhino poachers (South Africa)

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The Independent Online | March 18, 2020

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DURBAN: Police have launched a manhunt for a group of poachers who abandoned their vehicle and fled into bushes in the KwaZulu-Natal area of KwaMsane in the early hours on Wednesday morning.

According to police spokesperson, Captain Nqobile Gwala, police were conducting crime prevention duties in the early hours of the morning when they saw a vehicle on the N2 freeway.

“When the suspects spotted the police they abandoned their vehicle and fled the scene on foot into nearby bushes. Police officers searched the vehicle and recovered an unlicensed 303 rifle with ten rounds of ammunition, three knives and rope,” Gwala said.

She said the men were believed to have been rhino poachers. Gwala said police are investigating further and trying to trace the men.

Original image from The Independent Online: A group of men, believed to be rhino poachers, fled in the early hours of Wednesday morning after police intercepted their vehicle on the N2 in KwaMsane. Pictured are the items that police recovered from their abandoned vehicle.

Earlier in the week, it was reported that two suspected rhino poachers were shot dead at the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.

While the two died at the scene, a third person managed to flee. Police recovered a high-calibre hunting rifle and knives which were thought to be used when removing rhino horn. One of the men is believed to be a well-known poacher and had been previously charged for being in possession of rhino horn.

Meanwhile, the DA has called for decisive action to be taken to secure the future of rhinos.

“Ultimately, a strong message must be sent. Poaching gangs must know that force will be met with force, and convictions mean protracted jail sentences. Our rhino do not belong to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – they belong to the citizens of our province and country. Decisive action is needed to secure their future,” DA KZN spokesperson on Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Heinz de Boer, said.

He said Ezemvelo rangers and security staff are at the sharp end of this low-key war that plays itself out in the deep bush of our reserves each day and government needed to support their efforts.

“Key to combatting the scourge of poaching is the proper equipping of rangers, a fundamental change in the minimum sentencing criteria for poaching – and the bolstering of support for specialist prosecutors and courts,” he said.

South Africa launches investigation after top poaching investigator murdered

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Africa Times | March 18, 2020

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South African police chief General Khehla Sithole has pledged a comprehensive investigation after the “senseless” killing of decorated anti-poaching officer Lt Col Leroy Brewer.

Brewer, 49, was driving to work in Mbombela around 6:30 am on Tuesday, March 17, when he was ambushed and shot by an undetermined number of gunmen using high-caliber weapons. Investigations at the crime scene yielded several empty cartridges, while three bullet holes were found in the driver’s side window and one in the passenger window behind it. Brewer died at the scene of the crime.

Gen Sithole called the killing a “huge loss” to the South African police force and to the broader community, highlighting Lt Col Brewer’s sterling record: “[The colonel] always excelled in complex cases, particularly related to rhino poaching”.

Brewer’s work investigating powerful poaching syndicates in the Kruger earned him a number of accolades, including being named the best detective in elite anti-organised crime unit the Hawks.

Original image: Africa Times

He was particularly known for his determination to investigate any individuals involved in rhino poaching, including fellow policemen. Brewer’s commitment often put him at odds with less scrupulous colleagues. In 2016, for example, he himself was detained by police while he was trying to arrest two officers for ties to a poaching ring.

Rhino poaching has been declining over the past five years in South Africa as the government has made a notable effort to rein in the practice. A number of the country’s various law enforcement agencies—including the Hawks to which Leroy Brewer belonged, as well as park authorities and customs officials—have collaborated to go after international poaching syndicates, with increasingly impressive results.

In 2019, 564 rhinos were killed for their horns—26% less than in the previous year and less than half the number which were slaughtered in 2014, the peak year for rhino poaching in South Africa.

Despite the encouraging trend, rhino poaching remains a serious problem in South Africa. Organised crime networks have a major financial incentive to go after the endangered species. Rhino horn can fetch as much as $6000 per kilogram on the South African black market—and up to ten times that in Asia, where rhino horn is used in a number of traditional medicines.

Rhino DNA backlog after contract not renewed (South Africa)

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Lowvelder | December 10, 2019

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The processing of forensic samples from rhino poaching crimes has apparently ground to a halt, with a major backlog of cases.

This follows after the contract with RhODIS was allegedly not renewed by the SAPS.

Original photo as published by Lowvelder.

In 2017 the police suddenly issued a tender for the DNA contract, stating that all cases must first go to all investigators, who in turn must first take their samples to the forensic science lab in Silverton, and then depending on the cases, it would go back to RhODIS.

This tender took almost six months to be awarded, and was given to RhODIS, who was handling the cases beforehand in any case. This already created a backlog. The two-year contract for rhino DNA and stock theft expired in July, and has not been renewed.

A source close to the matter confirmed that the processing of forensic cases at poaching scenes has also been affected and that the police stopped using the RhODIS kits as early as 2017. The police apparently developed their own processing kits, but according to the source, these kits have now run out.