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19 Okt 2012
JONATHAN ERASMUS • zulunews2@ feveronline. co. za
Lie tests for Ezemvelo staff to fight rhino poaching
EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife staff are to undergo polygraph tests from next week as the wildlife body intensifies its fight against rhino poaching.
CEO Dr Bandile Mkhize said there was a growing need to “vet” all their staff of nearly 4 000 people to know who can be “trusted”.
This year, 54 rhinos have been poached in KZN, 40 of them in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife parks.
Rhino horns fetch up to R500 000 per kilogram. One horn weighs on average between five and six kilograms.
“Currently, it is difficult to know who you can trust as there is such large amounts of money involved. We want to weed out the rotten apples. We are talking about organised crime here,” said Mkhize.
His comments emanate from the findings in an internal report that recommended a number of radical changes to just how the provincial wildlife body takes on the fight against rhino poaching.
Released in a media statement, the report stated there was a need for more “clandestine” patrols; criminal background checks of staff; all critical staff to be required to sign a declaration of secrecy in future; contract work within the park be scaled down; the implementation of improved communication equipment, including a secure radio channel for all security personnel; expansion of aerial patrols, electronic vehicle monitoring, and the deployment of specialised units belonging to the SANDF into “rhino areas”.
Speaking to The Witness while attending the graduation ceremony of the Community Rhino Ambassador Project in the iMfolozi- Hluhluwe Game Reserve yesterday, Mkhize said the organisation suspended a section ranger and member of the anti- rhino poaching unit, both from Hluhluwe section of the park, last week.
The members, he said, are believed to have “lapsed” during the weekend of September 22 in which eight white rhinos were found dead and dehorned.
The Rhino Ambassador programme is a community outreach initiative that will see 100 “ambassadors” deployed into the local communities to do environmental awareness programmes.
He said what was making the programme even more difficult was obtaining the buy- in from end user countries such as Vietnam, whose law enforcement agencies claim to have “bigger problems”.
“We are, through national government, hoping to obtain a memorandum of understanding with the destination countries, but we have to tread carefully. For instance, China will not enter discussions if we state the horn has no medicinal purposes despite scientific evidence that points to the contrary.”
EKZNW still believes if it is allowed to regulate the sale of horns, it could significantly reduce the poaching. The organisation has a seven- ton stockpile in the valuable commodity.
19 Okt 2012
Colleen Dardagan firstname.lastname@example.org
Ezemvelo plans to plug the info leak
I NFORMATION leaks and shoddy protection of rhinos by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife staff were mainly to blame for this year’s alarming increase in poaching inside provincial parks, it emerged in an internal report released by Ezemvelo yesterday.
Staff working in rhino protection areas could be subjected to continuous criminal and background checks, which may include the use of lie detector tests if necessary. They will also sign a declaration of secrecy.
The report said that more than 40 rhino deaths in Ezemvelo parks since January could be attributed to information being “leaked” by staff which allowed poachers to operate with impunity.
“Timeous and accurate information surrounding the deployment and tactics of law enforcement staff leaked out of the park enables the suspects to identify gaps, such as the timing of law enforcement coverage... they exploit these to penetrate the reserve, poach the rhinos, remove the horns and escape without being detected,” the report said.
The chief executive officer of Ezemvelo, Bandile Mkhize, who was in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve yesterday to launch a community rhino protection programme, said the internal report had established involvement in poaching syndicates and negligence by some staff in carrying out their duties according to Ezemvelo’s Rhino Security Intervention Plan.
He said the use of a Bantam light aircraft during recent poaching incidents was also confirmed.
Mkhize said the deaths of nine rhinos in provincial parks last month called for “unprecedented” measures to curb any further killing.
The report recommends criminal record checks for all staff and the possible use of polygraph testing.
Radio and communication facilities should be improved with the introduction of a separate channel for security personnel.
Conservation managers and section rangers will now be required to participate in regular patrols and the intensity of clandestine, extended patrols will be upped.
Numbers of community members working on the alien invasive plant programmes in the parks will be scaled down and they will be transferred out of the parks.
Mkhize said using specialised units of the SANDF, as in the Kruger National Park, was being discussed.
He said the installation of surveillance cameras on the Corridor Road was also on the cards.
The road was used by poachers in the most recent incident.
“This equipment must be implemented to reduce the options available to poachers entering and leaving undetected via the Corridor Road.”
Lapses within the rhino protection ranks will not be tolerated, according to Mkhize, who promised that a second Rhino Security Assessment would be carried out at the end of this month.
Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:32 pm
Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:26 pm