Authorities say they have made progress in the fight against environmental crimes in the 2013/2014 financial year.
This is according to the National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report released on Wednesday in Pretoria.
“An overview of the criminal enforcement activities for the 2013/14 period shows an increase in the number of criminal dockets registered from 1 488 in 2012/13 to 1 862 in 2013/14,” Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said.
She said the number of finalised criminal dockets handed to the National Prosecuting Authority also increased from 268 in 2012/13 to 379 in 2013/14.
The report showed a slight increase in the number of convictions obtained nationally from 70 in 2012/13 to 78 convictions in 2013/14.
The National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report provides a national overview of environmental compliance and enforcement activities undertaken by relevant institutions across the country in the period of 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014.
The report shows the work of nine provincial environmental and four provincial park authorities, the Department of Environmental Affairs, South African National Parks and the Isimangaliso Wetland Authority.
Minister Molewa said 1 004 rhino were illegally killed for their horns in 2013.
“We continue to work in an integrated manner with all our security forces and members of our criminal justice system,” she said.
A total of 256 alleged poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the North West.
“Between April 2013 and April 2014, 70 rhino poaching court cases were finalised, with 85 accused convicted and 13 acquitted. A total of 50 accused were sentenced to direct imprisonment without the option of a fine,” Minister Molewa said.
According to the report, nine people were convicted for the possession of rhino horn, seven for illegally dealing in rhino horn and 24 for the illegal hunting of rhino.
Thirty-two people were convicted for illegal possession of firearms/ammunition, while 44 were convicted for trespassing.
In three cases in the Western Cape and Gauteng, authorities confiscated 864 kilograms of elephant ivory.
The report states that 2 018 facilities were inspected for compliance with environmental legislation which included pollution, waste and environmental impact assessment subsector.
In the biodiversity or protected areas subsector, 830 facilities were inspected for compliance.
A total of 1 539 non-compliances were noted in the 2013/14 period.
“The 2013/14 financial year has seen continued focus on compliance and enforcement activities in relation to strategic sectors.
“As a result of follow up inspections and on-going enforcement in these sectors, there has been a noticeable improvement in environmental performance in both the cement and refinery sectors,” said Minister Molewa.
She highlighted the United Nations Environment Programme-Global Environment Facility (UNEP-GEF) Rhino Project, which is aimed at strengthening law enforcement capabilities to combat wildlife crime with a specific focus on the rhino.
“The UNEP-GEF Rhino Project seeks to strengthen our law enforcement capabilities through improved forensic capacity, strengthened data gathering systems and enhanced cooperation mechanism at an international level,” she said.
Minister Molewa said work on the project had been done since May, which included the appointment of a programme manager, accusation of forensic trailers and equipment.
Article can be found here: