World Rhino Day 2014
Rhino poaching has reached severe levels in South Africa. A total of 1004 rhino were poached in 2013. As of mid-September 2014, 739 rhino had been poached in South Africa since the start of the year, and 227 rhino poachers had been arrested.
South Africa brought the rhino back from the brink of extinction in the 1960s and through a series of translocations from the core rhino population in the then Hluhluwe Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, the rhino population has grown to more than 21 000 animals.
As of 2012, Africa’s rhino population was estimated at 25 480.. South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhino population, and 93% of Africa’s rhino.
Poaching is threatening South Africa’s proud conservation record, the country’s heritage, tourism industry, job creation, the economy and, ultimately, the survival of a key species.
The government, through specialised interventions is doing its best to combat the scourge of rhino poaching.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, has repeatedly expressed grave concern about the high rate of rhinos poached, reiterating the government’s unwavering commitment in the continued fight against rhino poaching
Communities living adjacent to National Parks, state and privately-owned conservation areas, and private game reserve owners, rely on the rhino, as a key member of the Big Five, as a source of income and job creation. Should the rhino become extinct, thousands of jobs will be lost alongside the collapse of an important contributor to the South African economy through tourism and hunting.
As the second-largest mammal in Africa and a member of the Big Five, the rhino is an important part of South Africa’s cultural, economic and natural heritage.
While the increase in rhino poaching has been attributed to increased demand from countres such as Vietnam, the poachers and the smugglers of rhino horn live in South Africa and Mozambique, in areas adjacent to high-poaching areas such as the Kruger National Park.
The government has taken a number of steps to address poaching, including the creation of a special task team involving the SAPS, NPA, Department of Justice, Department of Defence, the Hawks, SARS, SANParks and the Department’s own specialists.
On the international front, Memoranda of Understanding in the field of Biodiversity Conservation have been concluded with Mozambique, Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, as part of the multi-pronged effort by the government to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching – from source to consumer. Negotiations to sign Memoranda of Understanding with Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and African states including Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana are progressing well.
Nationally, the Department has introduced numerous legislative and policy measures since 2012 to address rhino poaching, including instituting stricter controls on the issuing of rhino hunting permits that have resulted in a marked decrease in hunting applications from countries alleged to be involved in the pseudo-hunting of rhino to secure horns for the medicinal markets and the high flying social scene in consumer states in the Far East.
In July 2013, Cabinet authorised the Department of Environmental Affairs to explore the feasibility, or not, of a legal trade in rhino horn. A Panel of Experts has been appointed by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa to assist the government in reaching a decision on whether to table a rhino trade proposal for consideration at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of CITES, scheduled to be held in South Africa in 2016.
In August 2014, the Minister announced that Cabinet had approved the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros in South Africa, which includes the translocation of an estimated 500 rhino from the Kruger National Park to safe havens inside the country and in rhino range states in Southern Africa to ensure the future survival of the species.
The integrated strategic management approach is two-pronged. Firstly, its aim is to reduce the threat to rhinos by protecting rhino assets. The second is on managing rhinos themselves, as a completely integrated element of managing the threat of poaching. This includes strategic relocations, if deemed necessary.
World Rhino Day was introduced by WWF-South Africa in 2010 to celebrate all five species of rhino – the black rhino, white rhino, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
The aims of focusing attention on the plight of the rhino is to raise public awareness of particularly poaching, anti-poaching operations and successes; the economic and cultural value of rhino as a part of South Africa’s heritage; and responsible citizenry through the reporting of wildlife and rhino crimes to the authorities, and the rewards linked to successful arrests and prosecutions.
The Department of Environmental Affairs hopes that World Rhino Day will enhance local community and South African citizens’ confidence in the work being done by the government to address rhino poaching.
The public is encouraged to blow the whistle on rhino poaching and any related wildlife crimes. Members of the public, no matter where you are, know someone who is aware of someone who is involved in crime. The public are encouraged to take responsibility for the rhino as a symbol of the crimes being perpetrated against the environment and wildlife in general, and stand up and shout Not on our watch!
By taking hands and working together we, as South Africans, will win the war on rhino poaching.
On 22 September 2014, the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks will be marking World Rhino Day with the municipality of Bushbuckridge with an event at the Tulamahashe Stadium.
The day’s events include Fun Run for Rhino targeted at raising awareness in the local community. The race will be run over 4km and 8km.
The race will be followed by a march led by DEA, SANParks, the Bushbuckridge Municipality and community members to the Tulamahashe police station to present a memorandum calling for greater cooperation to combat rhino crimes, requesting stronger police action against rhino poachers and rhino horn smugglers while congratulating the SAPS, NPA and other relevant parties for their contribution to eradicating rhino-related crimes.
There will be a formal programme at the Tulamahashe stadium to be attended by estimated 2000 community members, addresses to be delivered by the Mayor of Bushbuckridge, the Police Commissioner for Mpumalanga, People and Parks, a ranger from SANParks, SANParks Board Chair and community representatives.
The keynote address will be delivered by the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson.