From : Tourismupdate.co.za

18 June 2012

A forensic laboratory dedicated to analysing DNA from rhino horns will be established in co-operation with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the UN Environment Programme and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, according to a report by Timeslive.

The multinational Global Environment Facility is reported to have donated in excess of R25 million to the project, which will test DNA to help establish where horns have come from and whether they have been taken illegally from South Africa. The analysis could be used as evidence in court against poachers.

According to the latest statistics from the Department of Environmental Affairs, the number of rhinos poached in South Africa since the beginning of this year now stands at 245, with the number of arrests at 161.

The Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit by poachers, having lost 147 rhinos since the beginning of this year. Limpopo has lost 34 rhinos; KwaZulu Natal, 25, and North West 24.

Of the 161 arrests, 138 were poachers, 10 were receivers or couriers, six were couriers or buyers and seven were exporters.

Department of Environmental Affairs Spokesman, Albi Modise, said local experts were already on board to test DNA samples from horns believed to have been stolen from South Africa.

Modise said experts would travel to Hong Kong next month to sample DNA from horns intercepted there.  He added that the Department was finalising a memorandum of understanding with China.

“Our approach is broad in terms of environmental crime. We have to engage with the countries where the horns end up going to because, failing that, we will not win this war,” he said.

South Africans are urged to report incidents of rhino poaching or any tip-offs that could lead to arrests and prevention of illegal killings, to 0800 205 005