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Information provided by: The Department of Environmental Affairs

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, has congratulated the Department’s Environmental Management Inspectorate (Green Scorpions), stationed at O.R Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) working together with Customs, the security company employed by the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), as well as the Directorate For Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) for the arrest of a suspected rhino horn smuggler on 24th September 2016.

©Kelly Winkler
©Kelly Winkler

This significant arrest took place on the eve of the opening of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The suspect was intercepted after attempting to take a transit flight to Hong Kong. Three rhino horns with a total mass of 9.4kg and an estimated value of ZAR12.2 m were seized.

The horns were discovered after the suspect’s luggage was screened by border and customs officials. The 48-year-old suspect, a Chinese national, was expected to appear in court today.

It was the joint work and effective coordination of all the entities involved that led to the successful detection, seizure and arrest. The Green Scorpions are stationed at a number of ports of entry and exit to increase capability to detect incidents of smuggling of wild specimens, as part of the Department’s Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach under implementation since 2014.

CITES COP17 has been billed the largest of its kind in the history of the convention. The illicit trade in rhino horn and rhino horn products is one of the subjects likely to garner significant attention during the conference. “With South Africa being the home to the world’s largest rhino population, naturally all eyes will be on us at CITES COP17 as we discuss the impact of the transnational illicit trade in wildlife on our rhino population,” says Minister Molewa.

“South Africa is currently experiencing a decrease in the rate of rhino poaching, and at the same time an increase in the number of arrests for poaching related offences. Slowly but surely our Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach is yielding success: we are now getting much better at addressing wildlife crime in a more integrated and coordinated manner,” says Minister Molewa.

In the past week there have been arrests of four Mozambican and two South African suspected rhino poachers in relation to two separate incidents in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Between 1 January and the end of August 2016 a total of 414 alleged poachers have been arrested in South Africa – of which 177 were in the Kruger National Park and 237 in the rest of the country.

The Integrated Strategic approach involves the Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Defense Force (SANDF), the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African State Security Agency, Justice and Correctional Services Department, South African National Parks (SANParks), South African Revenue Service (SARS) and provincial conservation agencies.

It has a number of key pillars, namely compulsory interventions, managing rhino populations, long-term sustainability interventions, and new interventions within the context of regional and international cooperation.

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