Syndicated Criminal Activity - Pivot
Syndicated Criminal Activity - Pivot

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Syndicated Criminal Activity - Pivot


A major area of concern for Ezemvelo is Rhino Crime, or Rhino Poaching as it is commonly referred too, is a serious transnational organised, syndicated criminal activity. This activity has been recognised by the South African Security Agencies as a national priority crime, which is to be combated by the National Security Agencies, with South African Police Services (SAPS) as the lead enforcement agency, together with the State Security Agency (SSA), South African Defence Force (SANDF), Department Environmental Affairs (DEA), Provincial Conservation Agencies, and Private Rhino Owners (PROA) providing support and protection on site, at the rhino reserves. As the Rhino Crime stretches throughout southern Africa and has smuggling routes throughout the world, it is recognised as national security threat in the International Illegal Trafficking organised criminal network, and therefore is formally known, recognised and referred to, as Illegal Wildlife Trafficking.


The populations of black rhino and white rhino in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) are presently stable, but the recent serious escalation in poaching is a cause for huge concern, given the exponential increase in poaching pressure over the past five years. At present KwaZulu-Natal and Ezemvelo are only losing approximately 54% of the intrinsic rate of growth rate. KwaZulu-Natal’s rhino increase by about 300 animals a year and currently in 2016 KwaZulu-Natal lost 162 of the potential increase of 300. This is sustainable but not optimal and or acceptable. It can however also change dramatically, especially if some of our protected areas are severely targeted as has happened at Ophate, Tembe, Ndumo, Hluhluwe and iMfolozi Protected Areas.

The pressure is enormous with the levels of organised crime and corruption needing to be combated country wide and not only in provinces, as syndicates are very dynamic and readily move between provinces. The deflection of rhino crime from one area to another requires a National effort. This happens when stocks are depleted or when enforcement causes risk to poachers in a targeted area, the syndicates move to other populations, anywhere in South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal now have Rhino Criminal Syndicates from Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo targeting KwaZulu-Natal rhino, who are believed to be responsible for about 90% of KwaZulu-Natal Rhino Crime.


KwaZulu-Natal’s Provincial SAPS Commissioner, the chief executive officer of Ezemvelo, provincial heads of the of State Security Agency, and SANDF, have listed Rhino Crime as a KZN Provincial Priority Crime and allocated detectives, forensic, intelligence and operations response resources to combat rhino crime in the Province.

The law enforcement effort by the agencies is instructed, coordinated and monitored under the National “Operation Rhino” which has been implemented from the National Joints Operations Command, which oversees all national priority joint crime combating operations in South Africa.

Ezemvelo has implemented a number of strategies, and technologiesto combat rhino crime in its rhino reserves. One of the present strategies is to dehorn rhino, which has proved to reduce the poaching risk by removing the target of the crime.
Whilst this is expensive and must be repeated regularly due horn growth, it is proving to provide protection to those populations that have been dehorned. The concept of implementing Intensive Protection Areas that will see security measures being increased around all activities, to ensure early detection and then have a rapid response to threats is being implemented. The use of technologies to support rhino crime prevention operations, such as the use of “Drones”, and various observation equipment is managed in special projects. The use of helicopters to allow for rapid response and deployment to situations has also proved to be successful.

The communities surrounding the Rhino Reserves are very supportive of government’s anti-poaching programmes, and in many cases provide crucial information that leads to arrests. As the Rhino Crime is organised crime, while general communities are aware of the poaching they are not aware of the detailed poaching activities as syndicates arrange access and modus by way of
corruption, and criminal networks already in place.


Poaching pressure in KZN has been increasing over the last two years, with an average of thirty three poaching attempts being recorded every month. This pressure is either disrupted, intercepted and/or arrested by law-enforcement efforts. This effort saves many rhino from being poached as every illegal hunt that is stopped is seen as a success. Despite these valiant and dedicated efforts KZN had lost fifty seven rhino as at the end of March 2017.


The combined efforts of the law-enforcement this year as at the end of March 2017, recorded the arrest of thirty eight persons who were charged for rhino crime, and also seized sixteen firearms, suspected to be used in killing rhino.
The investigations and detection of the syndicates still remains one of the key requirements of combating rhino crime, and the SAPS Organised Crime Combating Units must continue to bring these syndicate leaders and their supports to justice. The tracking detection and arresting of the poaching illegal hunting gangs does have a impact, but the illegal chain of crime has to be neutralised at the syndicate level.

Ezemvelo continue to increase its law enforcement capacity and effectiveness, with law enforcement now taking up 100% of the ranger’s time and efforts. Most
of the Rhino Crime is committed under the cover of darkness, and law enforcement plans must counter these efforts so much of the field rangers are trained and equipped to undertake night enforcement operations. One the principles of Intensive Protection Areas, is to ensure elite anti-poaching staff who are paramilitary trained, have the required skills and ability to track, and respond to poaching incursions under all conditions.

The setting up and operationalising, of rhino crime combating projects requires the coordination of all the state security agencies, and therefore it is critical that Government continue its support of allocating key resources from all its security clusters to combat the rhino crime in South Africa.

Syndicated Criminal Activity - Pivot

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