Wednesday, October 6, 2010

South Africa Sets Up a New Task Force to Combat Rhino Poaching

White rhinos

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa, Buyelwa Sonjica, recently announced that a newly dedicated task unit to combat rhino poaching has started operating. Minister Sonjica was attending a summit in Pretoria, where she stated that tougher penalties did not appear to have any effect of keeping poachers at bay. According to her, 227 endangered white rhinos have been ruthlessly slaughtered this year, and at the current rate, poachers could kill more than 300 of these magnificent beasts by the end of the year.

However, the establishment of this new task unit called the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit is directed at responding to wildlife crimes, including rhino poaching. It will be led by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and even includes members of the South African Police Service (SAPS), National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), South African National Parks (SANParks), and Ezemvelo KZN (KwaZulu-Natal) Wildlife. One select team known as the "Hawks" of SAPS have been assigned to focus on rhino poaching. According to Fundisile Mketeni, deputy director-general of biodiversity and conservation, the unit would become permanent in the battle against poaching if it will prove to successful. Johan Kruger, an advocate of NPA, stated that there were 26 cases of rhino-poaching involving at least eighty people accused. The NPA used a variety of tools to prosecute the perpetrators. It looked at charging them with offenses other than poaching such as, breaking aviation laws, organized crime laws, corruption, and tax evasion. The reason NPA would prevent organized crime laws is because most poachers worked in syndicates. According to Mr. Kruger, most of the foreigners arrested in the syndicate were Chinese and Vietnamese nationals. Also, Minister Sonjica ruled out the confrontation with the Vietnamese government, stating that the nation will soon sign a memorandum of understanding on the environment with South Africa.

I think this news article seems like that South Africa is about to put its foot down in the battle against rampant rhino poaching that has been devastating the nation this whole year. Of course some security firms have started military training to combat this ongoing catastrophe, but now it appears that the plan to combat poaching has reached a national level. This was seen in Minister Sonjica's statement during the conference in Pretoria. I sure hope that this new wildlife task force will prevent further encroachment of illegal poachers on South Africa's wild soil, and I have a very good feeling about it. Because it consists of authorities who normally stay focused on regular crimes. Now, it seems that they have taken the initiative and joined forces with wildlife authorities in this battle to save South Africa's rhinos.

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