About 300 rhinos will probably be poached this year. So predicted South Africa's deputy director on biodiversity and conservation, Fundisile Mketeni, of the department of water and environmental affairs during a briefing to Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs by over a dozen concerned organisations and individuals.
Mketeni said 232 suspects had been arrested last year in connection with rhino poaching of which 194 were linked to the actual killing, 24 were receivers of rhino horn, 12 were couriers and two exporters. No buyers had been arrested. Most of the poaching incidents happened in the North West and Limpopo provinces, while most of the rhino horn were destined for China, Vietnam and Thailand.
He said the illegal trade in rhino horn was grossing about R160 billion annually.
Mtekeni bemoaned the lack of coordination between his department and provincial colleagues, as well as other departments that could impact the problem. He called for his department to be given centralised power and to have his own officers trained same as those of the National Intelligence Agency.
"We want to have our own intelligence and use it the way we want," he said, indicating that these would be able to directly pursue rhino poaching syndicates outside the country. He said they planned to deploy their own officials at ports of entry, as well as to train customs officials to help detect suspects about to leave the country.
He asked for the department of public works to fix and electrify the fence between the Kruger National Park and Mozambique where most of the rhino poaching takes place. Committee chairman Advocate Johnny de Lange told Mtekeni that his department could take certain powers from provincial departments and exercise them at a national level.