South Africa gets tough on rhino poaching
The opportunity to see magnificent wildlife such as elephants, lions, giraffes and rhinos in their natural habitat is one of the highlights of trips to South Africa.
Now, authorities in the country are taking steps to help ensure one of most endangered species - the rhinoceros - will continue to be around for generations to come by cracking down on poachers.
Last week it was revealed that a court in Phalaborwa, an eastern town near Kruger National Park, handed down sentences of 25 years each to three rhino poachers - the most severe punishment ever meted out by the country.
The three men, from Mazambique, were caught with two fresh rhino horns in Kruger Park in 2010.
They were sentenced to ten years for illegal hunting and an additional 15 years for possession of an illegal firearm.
David Mabunda, head of SANParks, the body representing South Africa's national parks, welcomed the sentences.
"This is an indication that, as a country, we are taking more stringent measures in the fight against rhino poaching," he said.
It is the latest move by South Africa to try to tackle the problem of Rhino poaching.
Measures installed in recent months include the deployment of SA National Defence Force patrols along the 350km national border in the Kruger
National Park and the posting of conservation specialists at ports where rhino horns could be imported or exported.
SANParks is also in the process of beefing up patrols in Kruger by deploying an additional 150 rangers, while there are ongoing bilateral engagements between South Africa and Mozambique to deal with cross-border law enforcement.
"I would like to assure you that the government of South Africa views the illegal killing of this national treasure in a very serious light and will continue to prioritise our fight against this crime jointly with our law enforcement agencies," commented Edna Molewa, South Africa's minister for water and environmental affairs.