South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs will hold round-table discussions with rhino owners in the country as part of its bid to combat rhino poaching, which has reached "an unacceptable level".
Addressing the media at the department's first national rhino conservation dialogue workshop in Johannesburg on Monday, Deputy Director-General Fundisile Mketeni said rhino poaching had reached an unacceptable level.
"We are now at war," Mketeni said, adding that the department would continue to engage with various key stakeholders.
The objective of the national consultations is to solicit well-considered views on how best to secure the protection, safety and sustainable conservation of the rhinos in the country.
Other areas of concern, including trade, rhino horn stockpile management, awareness campaigns, international engagements and population management, will be considered in this process.
Collaboration with professionals
Monday's workshop was convened in collaboration with Mavuso Msimang, who has been appointed by the department as a rhino conservation issue manager.
Msimang has been tasked with convening a series of meetings comprising a broad range of organisations, experts and individuals with a vested interest in the sustainable conservation of South Africa's rhino population.
Also speaking at the briefing was Colonel Johan Jooste of the Hawks, who said they were also looking at engaging countries like China and Thailand.
"We will also be seeking assistance from the professionals," he said.
Filming at the Kruger National Park will also be forbidden in a bid to protect the rhinos.
According to the latest statistics from Environmental Affairs, the highest number of killings this year was at the Kruger National Park, with 137 rhinos; it accounts for more than half of the total rhino killings that have taken place in the country this year.
Mpumalanga had the most arrests with 44, followed by the Kruger National Park with 38; Limpopo had 19 arrests, North West 16, Gauteng 14 and KwaZulu-Natal 10 arrests.
Mketeni said plans were under way to host another summit with the various stakeholders in September.
A crime line has also been established to improve the level of co-operation with the public, as well as make access for would-be informers much easier.
South Africans can report incidents of rhino poaching or tip-offs that could lead to arrests and the prevention of illegal killings to 0800 205 005.
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