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India's Response to Rhino Poaching - Pay Attention South Africa!

The number of rhinos being poached in South Africa is both appalling and shameful. Looking at the statistics, from 2000-2007 an average of 15 rhinos were poached each year. Things then started going badly wrong – 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009, 333 in 2010, 448 in 2011 and 413 to date in 2012 with three more months left in the year. The number poached in 2012 could easily top 550 at this rate.

The Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa publishes lots of information about those arrested (2012: 153 poachers, 16 couriers, 7 exporters) but cases languish in court forever. For example, the Dawie Groenewald “gang” consisting of game ranchers, pilots and veterinarians charged in 2010 have still not been adequately prosecuted. Dawie Groenewald himself was still given permits to trade in rhinos even after being charged with numerous crimes. Also, Thai National Chumlong Lemongthai – a suspected rhino poaching kingpin – has been successful in having his guilty plea and admissions made in court last year disregarded. Lemongthai pleaded guilty to 10 of 52 charges last August, but the magistrate invalidated the guilty plea and now lawyers are asking the case to be thrown out of court due to the long delays by the prosecution. So it goes in South Africa.

The South African Minister of Environment, Edna Molewa, said in 2010 that she was taking the threat seriously and was looking into ways to prevent poaching. Meanwhile over one thousand more rhinos have been poached. Perhaps she is still looking?

Contrast that with a no-nonsense approach taken by her counterpart in India a few days ago:

“Minister for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, has ordered an immediate probe into Kaziranga rhino poaching.
Natarajan, who has ordered that an immediate investigation be conducted into this incident by a team from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, has desired that the investigation should be completed within one week, and the perpetrators brought to justice.

She has also written to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi asking for all assistance in this regard and to prevent future incidents.
“I am shocked and distressed by the callous exploitation by unscrupulous poachers of the natural disaster of floods and of helpless animals fleeing to find safe shelter. I am determined to ensure that these criminals are brought to justice and that such incidents do not recur in future,” she said."


So there you have it. Jayanthi Natarajan in India swings into action and demands immediate achievement, gives investigators one week to come up with a report and is determined to bring those responsible to justice. Edna Molewa looks into the matter for three years and nothing very much happens even to those caught red-handed. Well done Mrs Natarajan, please give Edna a call and explain to her your formula for effectively dealing with rhino poaching incidents…

See also Pieter's blog entitled  "Why the Trade in Rhino Horn Should Never Be Legalised"

Picture credit :

Posted by Pieter Kat at 15:33

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