PRETORIA Ongoing efforts led by the South African Police Service (SAPS) aimed at reducing incidents of rhino poaching in the country's national parks are yielding massive positive results.
Through Operation Rhino, a SAPS-led operation in conjunction with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the national parks, 49 suspects were arrested last month alone for poaching in the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and Hluhluwe in KwaZulu-Natal. Over and above these arrests police also recovered and confiscated 23 firearms, which include 17 rifles and five pistols, and 192 rounds of ammunition.
Other items known to be widely used in the commission of these crimes, such as axes (11), silencers (4), six vehicles and cellular phones (27) were also recovered and confiscated.
As much as the SAPS is encouraged by the figures so far, the aim for the police and its partners is to keep the momentum going to keep the situation under control, and to send a clear message to any would be poachers that we mean business. So far this year only 165 rhino have been poached, a reduction of 60 rhino compared to the same period last year. On top of that the numbers of firearms recovered and suspects arrested have increased significantly.
Patrols and stops and searches in the affected areas will always be assessed.
At the heart of this successful anti-poaching operation is the fact that all the required expertise to enable successful outcomes has been housed under one command and are working together as a team. Apart from the SANDF, the SAPS comprise of members from units such as the K9, forensic services, and specialised detectives from the stock theft unit, Reaction Team, analysts and others.