South African authorities continue to see an alarming rise in rhino poaching. So far, 150 rhinos have been poached in the first three months of this year compared to 83 in all of 2008.
A spokesman for the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise, said, in order to tackle the problem, the government is working with neighboring Mozambique, as well as officials in Vietnam and China, where the rhino horns often end up after being poached in South Africa.
“The criminals who operate in this space don’t operate in one country,” said Modise. “If South Africa operates and works only on our own without working closely with our partners internationally, like Vietnam, partners in China, partners like Mozambique and other partners that we will start discussions with soon, we will not win this war.”
He added that one sign suggesting that improvements could be on the horizon is Mozambique’s consideration of legislation to make wildlife poaching a criminal offense, with a heavier punishment.
“There has been an increase in the poaching activities in the Kruger National Park along the border with Mozambique,” he said. “We feel strongly that we’ve closed the gap from the side of Mozambique and closed the gap of South Africa.”
According to Modise, South Africa has already stepped up its punishment of poachers.
“A recent example is when three Mozambican nationals were sentenced to 20 years. It’s a way that heavy sentences can serve as a deterrent and the government will not allow plundering of national resources to continue,” he said.
Last year, a total of 448 rhinos were poached in South Africa, up from 333 in 2010 and 122 in 2009.