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National & Provincial
Aug 10 2012 8:33AM
 
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Kim Helfrich

The first foreign deployment in South Africa’s “low intensity war” against rhino poachers has hit Hong Kong.

Department of Water and Environment Affairs officials and senior law enforcement officers armed with knowledge, not guns, are on a mission to improving co-operation between the two countries to stamp out the scourge of rhino poaching as well as other wildlife and wildlife products crimes.

“Our meeting with Hong Kong authorities and NGOs there is part of South Africa’s effort to improve co-operation at international level to fight poaching,” department spokesperson Albi Modise said.

It is a direct result of the seizure of rhino horn and worked ivory late last year by Hong Kong customs officials. A South African team will shortly go to Hong Kong to collect DNA samples from the seized wildlife products to aid in establishing the origin of particularly the rhino horn and seek possible prosecution. Collection is dependent on the signing of a mutual legal assistance in criminal matters agreement between the two governments. “This is one of the items up for discussion during the visit,” he said.

The seizure of 33 pieces of rhino horn with a mass of over 86kg and more than 22kg of ivory bracelets and chopsticks was the largest yet of what appears to be local wildlife products outside South Africa.

Modise said a request for assistance from Hong Kong authorities was made in terms of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) and was hopeful the Far East visit would yield positive results.

Dr David Mabunda, chief executive of the national conservation agency, SANParks, late last month said rhino counter-poaching operations has now escalated to the stage where it “can rightfully be called a low intensity war”.

This because 312 rhino have been killed already this year, 136 short of last year’s all-time high lost to poachers, the majority of them in the Kruger National Park.

He told a passing-out parade of new rangers to emulate their predecessors who put an end to an outbreak of elephant poaching in 1983.

“Go out there and get them just like the Kruger ranger corps did 29 years ago.”

kimh@thenewage.co.za

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