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Pretoria - Water and Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, is concerned about the increase in poaching levels and theft of 66 rhino horn from a private stockpile held by a farmer near Roedtan in Limpopo last weekend.

Molewa, who regrets the theft, also noted that it is a sign of the seriousness of the scourge of rhino poaching and smuggling problem in South Africa that is linked to illicit international wildlife trade.

She welcomed the police’s investigation into the rhino horn theft and eagerly awaits the outcome of their probe. She also urged communities living closer to the parks to work together with the various law enforcement agencies in the country to counter the on-going scourge.

Four months into the year, the number of rhino poached for their horns has increased to 227. However, despite the increase in poaching, Molewa noted with appreciation the work done by various law enforcement agencies that led to the arrest of 60 people since the beginning of 2013, including 36 in the Kruger National Park.

The number of rhino poached included a rhino cow whose carcass was found near Letaba in the Kruger National Park on Tuesday, while forensic investigators were combing the crime scene where a rhino cow and her calf were shot by poachers near Nwanedzi in the central region of the Park, two weeks ago.

A bullet casing from a .375 hunting rifle was found about 200m from the carcass of the rhino cow by forensic investigators on Tuesday, only metres from where the remains of her calf lay.

“These deaths are among the 18 discovered by SANParks anti-poaching rangers in the past week, bringing the number of rhino poached in the Kruger National Park since January to 163. A total of 20 rhino have been poached in North West, 18 in KwaZulu-Natal, 16 in Limpopo and 10 in Mpumalanga,” noted a concerned Molewa.

Molewa urged all South Africans to work together with the police to stamp out the illegal killing of the rhino for their horn and to take pride in the country’s natural assets.

South Africans are urged to report incidents of poaching and tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211. –