A specialist anti-poaching unit has made huge leaps and bounds in the past six months, convicting a grand total of 365 rhino poachers.
From January to June 2018, the South Africa based Rhino 9 Task Team convicted various individuals.
Of the 365 individuals, 165 remain in custody awaiting court proceedings. Six have been deported back to their countries of origin. 11 suspects have been fined while a further 57 are serving prison sentences.
The maximum prison sentence dished out was nine years, with the minimum being three months.
In addition to this figure, 15 men between the ages of 33 and 50, have been arrested as of last week (the week beginning 13 August 2018).
These men were reportedly caught out during sting operations in Mpumalanga where officers found four unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
They have already appeared in court facing charges such as unlawful possession of firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition, possessing dangerous weapons, trespassing and hunting protected animals.
Other charges included kidnapping, assault and possessing the remains of a wild animal as well as possessing suspected stolen property.
According to IOL, national police spokesperson, Brigadier Vish Naidoo said:
Of the 365 suspects who were arrested, 165 remain in custody while facing court processes, six were deported to their native countries, 11 received fines and 57 are serving their various jail terms.
These convictions are evidence of the commitment of law enforcement agencies and game reserve parks to preserve endangered species for future generations.
Axes, tog bags, cellphones, and other incriminating evidence were also seized during the arrests.
The Rhino 9 Task Team is a multidisciplinary team operating in Mpumalanga comprising of various government departments including members from various disciplines in the South African Police Service, Customs and Excise, the South African National Defence Force, as well as Ezemvelo and SANParks game rangers.
Proud to support @SidesofaHorn – a poignant film which explores how poaching is tearing communities apart and threatening rhinos’ existence https://t.co/jcDSJMRc07 #sidesofahorn pic.twitter.com/BsTz0b1nQf
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) August 22, 2018
Naidoo has expressed hopes these arrests will deter those who might have previously considered getting involved in rhino poaching.
Going forward, Naidoo stressed the importance of members of the community to come forward to help officers in their anti-poaching efforts:
Poachers and smugglers are warned that over and above facing criminal prosecution, their ill-gotten gains will also be confiscated in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121/1998 (POCA).
We urge the people of South Africa to continue supporting the police in its efforts to bring down the scourge of crime because together we can do more. Anyone with information related to rhino poaching may contact the nearest police station or SAPS Crime Stop number: 08600 10111.
1/2 Last year, my mom and I knit a blanket for Blankets for Baby Rhinos, to help support conservation and anti-poaching efforts in South Africa. #blanketsforbabyrhinos #bfbr #stoppoaching #saverhinos #worthmorealive #safarilive pic.twitter.com/Fzc5Ts1zcB
— Kristin (@klarson425) August 24, 2018
Figures show rhino poaching increased alarmingly over the course of the decade between 2007 and 2017, according to the Independent.
Whereas only 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa during the year 2007, a shocking 1,028 rhinos were killed in this manner during 2017.
According to The Independent, Tom Milliken, a spokesman for wildlife-trade monitoring network Traffic, said:
Traffic calls on South Africa urgently to adopt and implement its national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking: the potential growth of new markets for rhino products is a deeply worrying development that needs to be nipped in the bud – we’re far from seeing the light at the end of this very long, dark tunnel.
The gentlemen put the pedal to the metal and raised R30 000 through various fundraising initiatives in support of anti poaching drives. The funds went towards tagging a Rhino through the Black Rhino Reserve Wildlife Trust's program. #BlackRhinoWildlifeTrust pic.twitter.com/SOpwvzwT9I
— Assupol TuksCricket (@tukscricket) August 23, 2018
Let’s just hope the barbaric practice of rhino poaching will one day be consigned to the history books where it belongs.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.