There has been a significant increase in the number of arrests of alleged poachers this year‚ Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa says.
She said on Sunday that a total of 414 alleged poachers had been arrested in South Africa since January 1 this year – 177 of which were in the Kruger National Park and 237 in the rest of the country.
A total of 94 firearms have been seized inside the Kruger National Park between January 1 and August 31 this year.
Molewa said that among the notable investigations‚ arrests and prosecutions linked to rhino poaching were:
• The arrest of three men in Vanderbijlpark in April‚ during a police operation‚ for allegedly intending to sell rhino horns. Adriaan Van Staden‚ Martin Van Rooyen and Conrad Strydom were found in possession of 18 rhino horns. Their court date is 20 September 2016.
• In a matter linked to the arrest in Vanderbijlpark‚ two other men – Adriaan du Plessis and Nardus Rossouw – were arrested in Lephalale for their alleged involvement in the orchestration of the illegal selling of rhino horns. Their court date is 15 September 2016.
• In the Eastern Cape‚ three suspects were arrested for rhino poaching and the illegal possession of a fresh rhino horn in June. The arrest followed the killing of a rhino bull in a private game reserve earlier the same day in the Grahamstown area. Jabulani Ndlovu‚ Sikhombuzi Ndlovu and Zimbabwean national Forget Ndlovu were arrested during a joint operation during which a Dart Gun and Darts‚ several saws‚ knives; M99 tranquilizers and 2 high performance vehicles were also confiscated. The accused in this case remain in custody following their court appearances.
• On 10 August‚ the Hawks and SANParks officials arrested three men in Equestria‚ Pretoria‚ during a police operation who were intending to sell five rhino horn. Pieter Van Zyl (67)‚ Marco Swanepoel (35) and Stephan Mylie (30) were found in possession of an additional three rhino horns during the arrest. During follow-up investigations a massive haul of almost 105 rhino horns‚ the value of which is yet to be determined‚ was found. The three accused‚ who were granted bail during their court appearance in August‚ are scheduled to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on 12 October 2016.
• Law enforcement agencies working at OR Tambo International Airport in August arrested a Chinese national found in possession of 10 rhino horns‚ 84 stick ornaments made out of elephant ivory and 41 elephant ivory bangles. The suspect‚ Desheng Zhane‚ was about to board a flight to Hong Kong when he was nabbed. A joint investigation is underway by the Hawks and the Green Scorpions.