Minister Edna Molewa highlights progress in the war against poaching and plans for 2015

22 January 2015


Minister Edna Molewa reported back on the progress made with regards to the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros in South Africa.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, reported back on progress with regards to the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros in South Africa at a media briefing on Thursday, 22 January 2015.

Cabinet approved the integrated strategic management on 6 August 2014.

Key aspects of the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros  include:

  • managing rhino populations
  • compulsory interventions
  • international and national collaboration and cooperation
  • long-term sustainability measures

The Minister said significant progress has been made with regards to the implementation of the interventions.

1: Translocation update

In August 2014 the Minister announced that rhino would be translocated from areas in South Africa where they are under threat, to more secure locations. Translocation has previously contributed significantly to the growth of the local and regional rhino populations.

Through the efforts of South African National Parks (SANParks), provincial government, as well as private sector partners, the translocation program is ongoing and continues to be a success.

In the last quarter of 2014, 56 rhinos had been moved out of poaching hotspots and translocated from certain areas within the Kruger National Park (KNP) to an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) as well as well as to other more secure areas .

In addition, approximately 100 rhinos have been translocated to neighboring States during 2014, through both private partnerships and government initiatives.

“Through this method we aim to create rhino strongholds: areas where rhino can be cost-effectively protected while applying conservation husbandry to maximize population,” said the Minister.

Steps taken to protect the translocated rhino include collaring so that their movements can be monitored.  The Minister said none of the monitored animals moved to the IPZ have been poached.  Further translocation of rhino in terms will be undertaken in the course of 2015.

2 Rhino sales update

Twenty bids were received during the SANParks tender process for the purchase of white rhino from the Kruger National Park.   Among the objectives of the rhino sales program, which has taken place in South Africa before, is supporting the development and growth of viable rhino populations on privately owned properties and elsewhere; provided acceptable criteria in respect of habitat and security are met.

Proceeds from the sale of rhino will be allocated to a ring-fenced fund that will be ploughed into conservation projects, including rhino conservation.

Security and habitat suitability assessments are to be carried out following site inspections at the properties owned by the leading bidders.

3 Proactive anti-poaching initiatives

During 2014 there was increased collaboration between provincial, national and international law-enforcement agencies, as well as the criminal justice system and prosecution service.

As announced last August, work is well underway on the compulsory interventions outlined in the integrated strategic plan.

  • Government undertook to establish a National Rhino Operations Centre in the Kruger National Park. It is functional and yielding results.
  • Collation of proactive intelligence from multiple agencies working to combat rhino poaching has been stepped up. Protection Zones, including the Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ)  have been set up and are fully functional.
  • The use of technologically advanced methods to reinforce the protection of rhino is being stepped up through, for example, partnerships with the CSIR and Denel.
  • An Intelligence Working Group on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWG), coordinated by the National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICOC) has been established and has started work.
  • There has been greater coordination, collaboration and functioning through the Priority Committee on Wildlife Crime.
  • A dedicated team of detectives led by Lt Gen Moonoo is working to investigate rhino poaching related crime.
  • The government is working to improve crime scene management.
  • Various strategies to disrupt criminal syndicates are being employed and have led to a number of arrests and convictions.
  • Using forensic technology, including DNA analysis, in the judicial process to support successful prosecutions , largely through the work of the UNEP-GEF Rhino Programme.

3.1 Use of forensic technology

The GEF/UNEP rhino project launched in October 2014 will, during 2015, focus on, among others, information sharing and analysis for more effective law enforcement among national actors. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of forensic technology.

Since the signing of the Project Cooperation Agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in May 2014, the following has taken place:

  • A programme manager  has been appointed and the first funds have been disbursed
  • Space for the SAPS Environmental Forensic Laboratory has been identified
  • Funding has been transferred to the University of Pretoria Veterinary Genetics Lab to increase capacity to process rhino DNA routine samples and to cover the costs of DNA kits
  • Forensic trailers have been procured and are in the process of being fitted with equipment and branded
  • Engagement with the South African Judicial Awareness Institute to lay the groundwork for training of magistrates
  • An advanced crime scene management training course for officials took place in November 2014

3.2 Ports of entry and exit

In line with amendments to the CITES regulations relating to the designation of ports of entry and exit for all CITES listed species, the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Green Scorpionswill take over the functions relating to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) from Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) at Oliver Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) as of  1 April 2015.

The Green Scorpions will be stationed at ORTIA to ensure compliance with the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations (TOPS), CITES Regulations, Bio-prospecting, Access and Benefit-Sharing Regulations and the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations.

“We will continue to build capacity among our officials, and undertake to establish similar capacity in all other designated ports of entry and exit.

“In addition to this, there are collaborative projects between the National Border Management Coordinating Centre (NBMCC) of SARS and the Department’s Environmental Management Inspectorate to roll out a training program on the Illicit International Cross Border Movement of Endangered Species Training at ports of entry/exit,” said Minister Molewa.

This program is aimed at increasing the number of detections at the ports of entry/exit and reducing the risk of illicit trade, while better understanding the routes being utilized by the syndicates to move the goods.

“It is clear that the improvement of actionable intelligence will ultimately contribute towards a rise in the numbers of people arrested, prosecuted and convicted for poaching-related activities, as well as for corruption,” said the Minister.

3.3 Arrests, investigations and prosecutions

The number of alleged poachers, couriers and syndicate members arrested has risen from 343 in 2013 to 386 in 2014.

During the 2013/14 financial year, according to statistics provided by the National Prosecuting Authority, a conviction rate of 61 per cent was secured: a figure we as the DEA remains confident will be improved. At the end of October 2014, with six months to go, the conviction rate stood at 50 per cent.

Noteworthy cases for 2014:

  • The arrest on 20 January 2014 of two suspects on suspicion of involvement in the transportation of stolen vehicles, smuggled rhino horn and explosives
  • The arrest of ten members of an alleged rhino poaching syndicate in September 2014 – including a pilot, an attorney, and a warrant officer from the Hawks. The arrests came after a year-long investigation by key stakeholders including the DEA
  • The arrest in December 2014 of 16 members of a rhino horn smuggling syndicate in Prague, Czech Republic. This was the direct result of assistance provided by the DEA and the South African security services in terms of a Mutual Legal Assistance agreement
  • During 2014 a total of 174 alleged poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park, and 212 for the rest of the country

The Czech arrests were the successful outcome of cross-border cooperation between affected countries as well as transit and end-user countries to tackle the illicit trade in rhino horn.

During 2014, 1 215 rhinos were killed. This is a rise in the number of poached rhino from 1 004 in 2013.

“But given the highly organised nature of the syndicates, we believe these figures could be considerably higher were it not for our interventions,” said Minister Molewa. “Year on year, comparatively speaking, the increase in the rate of poaching has slowed since 2012.  Nevertheless-the figures remain worryingly high.”

3.4 Collaboration with Interpol

South Africa has played a key role in interfacing with Interpol, particularly on the Advisory Board of the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee and in the three Interpol crime working groups - Wildlife Crime Working Group, Fisheries Crime Working Group and the Pollution Crime Working Group.

In collaboration with the Hawks, supported by the DEA, with involvement from Vietnam, China, Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Namibia, Nepal, Kenya, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, and Australia the government is conceptualising a project through the Interpol Wildlife Crime Working Group that will focus on rhino and elephant and the more effective sharing of information between government enforcement agencies.

4. National and International Collaboration and Cooperation

A: Range States

In 2014 the Department hosted a rhino range states meeting at the Kruger National Park.  The outcome of the meeting was the framework African rhino range states Action Plan. South Africa committed to contribute towards the further development of the action plan by hosting two additional working sessions.

B:  Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s)

During 2013 and 2014 the Department of Environmental Affairs concluded several Memoranda of Understanding (MOU’s) including Mozambique, Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, among others.

The Implementation Plan that will put into action the MOU signed with Mozambique has been agreed to and is ready to be signed.

Key aspects of the Plan include joint planning and training sessions, the training and equipping of additional rangers, the implementation of community programmes including the resettlement of three villages, the deployment of additional border guards along the boundary between the two countries and continued cooperation and intelligence sharing with the Mozambican police who have effected a higher number of arrests inside Mozambique.

“We are pleased to report that there has been marked improvement with regards to cross-border collaboration in fighting rhino poaching,” said the Minister.

During 2015 the Department will continue to build and strengthen international partnerships in the fields of conservation and biodiversity management.

This includes hosting the Dialogue on combating wildlife crime with key countries and partners of theInternational Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) in February, working on a SADC Anti-Poaching Strategy and signing a finalised MOUs with the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos, Kenya, Botswana and Tanzania.  It also includes advocating for illegal wildlife trade issues to be included in the agenda for the African Ministerial Conference on Wildlife (AMCEN), slated for March 2015 and high-level participation in the International Conference on Illegal Exploitation and Trade of African Wild Flora and Fauna in Congo, Brazzaville in April 2015.

The Department will also be working  with the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), the World Wide Fund (WWF) and the Security Cluster, on a project to be driven by the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC). The TraCCC project involves looking at the concept of "following the money" in order to crack syndicate enterprises by analysing relevant information to detect and trace funds and monies used in rhino poaching activities.

“We reinforce our position that combating rhino poaching requires long term solutions to preserve the rhino for generations to come,” said Minister Molewa.  “We will not close that door to any potential solutions, but will work with you, and listen to you.”

5 Long-term sustainability measures

I. Committee of inquiry

In July 2013 Cabinet authorised the Department of Environmental Affairs to explore the possibility of legalizing trade in rhino horn, or not.

I have established a Committee of Inquiry to look into this issue.  Pre-screening has taken place but final vetting has not taken place. We are working with the State Security Agency to fast-track this process

II. Communities

Providing alternative incentives to communitues will encourage the recognition of all the values of rhino, in line with sustainable use principles.

This includes:

  • creating incentives to promote / facilitate rhino ownership
  • The consolidation of rhino population across different land-uses in South Africa including national, provincial, private and communal land, with the aim of involving communities in wildlife ownership and land use.

A successful case has been the handover of five rhino to the Mdluli Tribal Authority in Mpumalanga in March 2014.

We are also working with two other communities in Limpopo Province, the Balepye and Selwane communities, who have been beneficiaries of South Africa’s land redistribution programme. Both communities have undertaken a project to utilize this land for rhino conservation and sustainable game ranching.

The Minister will be delivering the keynote address at the ‘Beyond Enforcement’ symposium in February, which is being convened to examine the role of community-based interventions in combatting the illegal trade of wildlife.

“We as the Department of Environmental Affairs remain confident that the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros plan is bearing fruit.

However, in the light of increased poaching numbers, it is clear that existing interventions need to be strengthened,” said Minister Molewa.

“As we count the cost not only in terms of financial costs, but also loss of human life and risks to national security; it is important to re-emphasise that South Africa and other countries impacted by these activities, cannot win this fight alone.”

The Minister called on all people to work with the government in in winning the rhino poaching fight while working alongside communities to protect an important part of South Africa’s heritage.

 ** South Africans and members of the international community are encouraged to report information regarding rhino poaching and related  tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211.

Rhino poaching statistics


South Africa 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
KNP (SANParks) 252 425 606 827 29
MNP (SANParks) 6 3 3 0 0
MAP (SANParks) 0 0 0 1 0
Gauteng  9 1 8 5 0
Limpopo  74 59 114 110 12
Mpumalanga  31 28 92 83 2
North West  21 77 87 65 0
Eastern Cape  11 7 5 15 0
Free State  4 0 4 4 0
Kwa-Zulu Natal  34 66 85 99 6
Western Cape  6 2 0 1 0
Northern Cape  0 0 0 5 0
 Total 448 668 1004 1215 49


Rhino poaching arrests statistics


South Africa - Arrests 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
KNP (SANParks) 9 174 133 73 82
MNP (SANParks) 0 0 0 0 0
MAP (SANParks) 0 1 0 0 0
Gauteng  0 21 10 26 16
Mpumalanga  4 45 34 66 73
Eastern Cape  0 2 0 0 2
Limpopo  0 60 70 34 34
North West  3 14 26 32 21
Free State  0 0 7 6 0
KwaZulu-Natal  1 68 63 20 4
Western Cape  0 1 0 0 0
Northern Cape  0 0 0 1 0
Total 17 386 343 267 232


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