Monday, 16 January 2012
Join the fight against rhino poachers
IT is YOU who the environmental affairs minister wants to enlist to help win the war against rhino poaching.
Speaking at a National Press Club briefing in Pretoria yesterday, Edna Molewa called on South Africans to assist in stopping the slaughter, which has already claimed the lives of at least 11 rhinos this year.
It is a war that needs to be won quickly as, if poaching levels continue to rise, SA will see its rhino population of 22 000 declining drastically.
“It is clear that this is an organised crime of the highest degree. And in dealing with organised criminals, we need inputs and actions from all South Africans,” Molewa said.
She has called on the numerous rhino anti-poaching organisations to give input on what should be done.
Molewa said part of the government’s plan was to deploy an additional 150 rangers in the Kruger National Park this year. This would add to the 500 who are already in the park.
A fixed-wing aircraft has been donated and would be used to patrol the park’s eastern boundary.
But even with the extra rangers operating in the Kruger Park, SANParks chief executive David Mabunda said this was “still mission impossible”.
There was a ratio of 50 000 hectares of park land per ranger. The ideal, he said, would be a ratio of 10 000ha per ranger, although this would mean increasing the workforce to 1 600 people.
Mabunda said crime intelligence was key in the fight against poaching.
Molewa also said her department planned to deploy conservation specialists at key ports of entry. A sea port and OR Tambo International Airport would also be getting a special facility where conservation officials would be able to inspect and examine wildlife consignments.
Molewa said she would be meeting with Department of Public Works officials today over plans to re-erect a 150km stretch of fence along the border with Mozambique. This fence would be electrified and be used as an early-warning system.
Mabunda said the majority of poachers caught in the Kruger Park were from Mozambique and came from poor communities.
“They are ideal recruits for organised crime,” he said.
Part of the fight in the war on poaching was co-operation with various countries linked to the trade in rhino horn.
“We managed within this short period of time to prepare the draft memorandum of understanding with China and Vietnam on wildlife trafficking and enforcement, which we hope to sign in the first half of this year,” Molewa said.
She added there had also been discussions on cross-border law enforcement operations between SA and Mozambique.
The minister noted that with this co-operation and that of various government departments, 232 suspected poachers were arrested last year.
By Shaun Smillie, Independent Online
Read original story here.