En guarde: Field ranger recruits stand in formation while undergoing advanced training in the Kruger National Park. Pictures: Michael Appel
South African men and women are putting their lives on the line day after day against an unrelenting armed enemy with no regard for life, no respect for international borders and no end to their greed.
For foreign nationals to cross the border of a country with weapons, is regarded as an act of aggression and should rightly be seen as such and dealt with swiftly.
Plainly put, South Africa has gunmen crossing our border from Mozambique into the Kruger National Park numerous times a day. In March alone, the Kruger Park recorded 72 known cross-border armed incursions from Mozambique.
These people do not come to gaze at our touristic wonders, purchase goods at our shops, or add any value to our country whatsoever.
Their mission is to track down a rapidly dwindling rhino population, kill them, hack their horns off, then escape back to the safety of Mozambique.
The most disturbing thing of all is that the majority of rhinos have their horns hacked off while they are still alive, and are then left to bleed out or are put down by rangers once discovered.
Field rangers who deal with this gruesome reality on a daily basis bear witness to rhinos that have not had their horns carefully removed, but see half of the animal’s face, including its nose and tongue, crudely hacked off.
Head of the Kruger Park’s anti-poaching operation, retired Maj-Gen Johan Jooste, said there was no doubt that “the war is escalating” and that the time for half measures and reactive responses to protect the park’s remaining roughly 8000 rhino is over”.
Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa last week expressed concern that only four months into the year, the country had already had 227 rhino poached. “Despite the increase in poaching, the minister also notes with appreciation the work done by various law enforcement agencies that led to the arrest of 60 people since the beginning of 2013. In the Kruger National Park 36 arrests had been made,” the department said.
A record 668 rhino were killed in South Africa last year, with more than 60% of those slaughtered in Kruger.