FLOODS, two weeks of full moon, thick vegetation and "aggressive incursions" from Mozambique had all contributed to increased rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park, which has lost 42 rhinos to poachers this year, the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Thursday.
South Africa is not winning the war on rhino poaching, although the poaching rate has not yet surpassed the birth rate. The country lost a record 633 rhinos between January 1 and December 19 last year. The previous record, for 2011, was 448.
A total of 57 rhinos had been poached across the country this year, the department said.
But, South African National Parks (SANParks) CEO David Mabunda said that antipoaching operations were "starting to yield results".
Of the 18 suspected poachers that had been arrested since January 1, 11 were arrested in the park. Three other suspected poachers were killed in shootouts with patrollers.
"We bled in December, but as of January 1 there has been a change in strategy from a conservation management system to greater law enforcement, and this is working. Our operations are more militaristic. The number of poachers has increased inside and outside the park," Mr Mabunda said.
Park spokeswoman Wanda Mkutshulwa said Mr Mabunda was referring to operational and intelligence-gathering successes that had not yet translated into a reduction in the numbers of rhinos poached in the park.
Last month, the park lost more than 60 rhinos to poaching, and SANParks offered a cash reward of R100,000 to anyone who could provide information leading to the successful prosecution of poachers. It also offered R1m for the successful conviction of a poaching syndicate member or kingpin.
Ms Mkutshulwa said this was already yielding results.
Further, SANParks appointed retired army Maj-Gen Johan Jooste to oversee antipoaching operations in the Kruger National Park, as part of a "multipronged strategy" to combat rhino poaching.
The park also announced a partnership with Crime Line, an initiative that allows the public to make anonymous SMS tip-offs on suspected crimes.