Dramatic escalation in fight against poaching as suspected poachers fire on SANPARKS Helicopter

26 May 2016


The Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms. Edna Molewa has congratulated SANParks and law-enforcement authorities for their sterling work in averting a catastrophe, after suspected poachers fired on a SANParks helicopter in the Kruger National Park (KNP).

The incident represents a dramatic escalation in our fight against rhino poaching, and is further indication that SANParks and all our law enforcement agencies continue to fight to curb rhino poaching.

On the 25 May 2016 suspected poachers inside the KNP shot at the SANParks helicopter five times.

In three operations involving members of the SANParks Rangers, SAPS Airwing and K9 Units, contact was made in all three sections with groups of suspected poachers.

The incidents took place in three separate sections of the southern part of the Kruger National Park that has borne the brunt of poaching.

Fortunately, quick action by all the team members involved averted a catastrophe and the helicopter managed to land with all the crew on board safe.

Four poachers have been arrested andthree firearms, ammunition and poaching equipment recovered at the three contact scenes.

Follow up investigations involving the SAPS are underway.

The Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach, announced by Cabinet in 2014 - continues to yield results in the fight against poaching.

We are proud of the work done by our Rangers, the Management and Leadership of SANParks as well as all law enforcement agencies, particularly at the Kruger National Park.

This multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach involves collaboration between the SAPS, the SANDF, the intelligence community, SANParks, border and customs officials, Environmental Management Inspectors (EMI's) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The apprehension of the suspected poachers was the result of a joint operation by these teams involving the Joint Mission Operations Center (JMOC) launched by President Zuma last year. The operationalization of the JOC has enabled faster reaction time and more proactive operations by the anti-poaching teams inside the Kruger National Park (KNP).

"That the suspects were so swiftly apprehended is a sign that our integrated approach to battling rhino poaching is working," says Minister Molewa.

In the first four months of this year 363 rhinos were poached in South Africa, and of these 232 were killed in the KNP, that has the largest population of the species living in the wild. However, as recently announced, we realized a decline by the end of last year, and in the first quarter of this year.

This downward trend comes despite an increase in the number of incursions by poachers into the KNP - up by 28% in the first four months of this year.

"We retain utmost confidence in law enforcement agencies and our counterparts in Mozambique and elsewhere to successfully stop the activities of the criminal elements behind poaching," concluded Minister Molewa.

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