Government will start targeting foreigners who come to South Africa for rhino trophy hunting, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Wednesday.
Poaching statistics continue to increase exponentially year on year, with an estimated 159 animals killed since the beginning of 2012.
The majority of illegally traded rhino horn is smuggled into Vietnam and Thailand.
Officials have estimated the death toll to reach 600 this year, up from 448 last year.
Molewa said her department had asked Vietnamese authorities to verify that every rhino trophy exported by hunters was not being resold.
“The outcome of this process will allow us to refuse applicants for rhino hunting,” said Molewa.
Government is currently carefully studying some of the radical proposals to combat rhino poaching, including legalising the trade.
Molewa insisted they would continue to battle poaching until the war was won.
Stiffer punishment a good deterrent
Police and environmental crime experts believe the recent increase in arrests and heavier sentences for rhino poachers will bear fruit.
South African National Parks (SANParks) environmental crime head Ken Maggs said poachers have become increasingly sophisticated and dangerous.
“In a sense we’re trying to stay ahead but often we’re also one step behind because there are no rules,” said Maggs.
He said he remained positive that poachers could be stopped in their tracks.
The police’s Vish Naidoo agreed.
“For 2011 alone, about 29 people were convicted,” said Naidoo.
“That in itself will serve as a big deterrent.”
So far 90 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching this year.
Written by Andrea Van Wyk, Edited by Clare Matthe
Images of Kruger National Park:
1. A rhino carcass
2. A cartridge from a hunting rifle
Source: Eyewitness News