Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries calls for review of anti-poaching efforts on World Ranger Day 2019

31 July 2019

 

The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms. Barbara Creecy, has called for a review of efforts in the war on poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

Speaking at the World Ranger Day commemoration at the Ranger Memorial in the Kruger National Park, Minister Creecy said she will be convening a meeting with Police Minister Bheki Cele and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola “so that we can better coordinate our collective efforts against increasingly syndicated crime”.

“I am sure we all agree the time has come for us to review our efforts in the war on illegal poaching and wildlife trade.  Together with our sister departments in the Security and Justice Cluster: we need better controls at our ports of exit, more support in the war on the ground, and faster prosecution of offenders,“ she said.

Paying tribute to rangers who battle poaching in the conservation areas on a daily basis, the Minister said that there is a need to create more support for ranger fighting the war on the ground, be it through the provision of adequate and appropriate tools of the trade or reward and recognition. 

To commemorate World Ranger Day 2019, the Minister, the Chief Executive of SANParks, Mr. Fundisile Mketeni and the Kruger National Park’s chief ranger, Mr Nicholus Funda, laid a wreath at the Rangers Memorial at the Kruger Gate for rangers who died in the line of duty in the past year.

Minister Creecy was joined by the Chair of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Fikilie Xasa, the Executive Mayor of Bushbuckridge, Clr Sylvia Nxumalo, senior SANParks officials, representatives of the SA National Defence Force, the Police, the SANParks Honorary Rangers, Total SA, traditional leaders and members of the local community in paying tribute to rangers working to protect the country’s rich natural heritage.

World Ranger Day, which is supported by the International Rangers Federation, is also a celebration of the commitment of rangers who battle rhino poaching in protected areas, such as the Kruger National Park, daily.

Minister Creecy said securing a future for nature is an integral part of the National Development Plan.  It includes declaring new protected areas, sustainable land management, protection of forests and securing strategic water sources. 

Through initiatives such as the People and Parks programme, the Access and Benefit Sharing and the National Co-Management frameworks a contribution has been made to national priorities such as job creation, poverty alleviation as well as enterprise and skills development for the betterment of all communities.

“The first and perhaps most important approach to protecting biodiversity and wildlife associated crime in our parks, has to be the economic and social well-being of communities living adjacent to our protected areas,”  said the Minister.

Ms. Creecy said despite the best efforts of rangers and the security agencies, wildlife crime continues to threaten the country’s biodiversity.

“Rhino poaching, in particular, remains a critical problem in our protected areas,”  she said. 

In the past three years, South Africa has shown a measure of success in decreasing rhino poaching, not only in national parks, but also in other protected areas, including provincial and municipal game reserves, and private conservation areas. 

In the first 6 months of 2019, 318 rhino have been poached countrywide, a modest decline of 68 incidents over the same period last year.

From January to June 2019, 122 alleged poachers were arrested within the Kruger National Park.  Nationally, 253 arrests were effected in the first half of 2019 in respect of both rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking.  A total of 61 firearms were recovered during operations in the KNP in this period as well.

These successes have been achieved through the implementation of the  2014 Integrated Management Plan which combines the use of technology, extensive anti-poaching work, as well as the management of the rhino population. 

”It also involves extensive international collaboration across our borders to ensure that rhino poachers are brought to book where-ever they try to hide,” she said adding that many of the successes could not have happened without rangers. 

Delivering the opening address Mr. Mketeni saluted the family of ranger Respect Mathebula who was killed in a shootout with poachers in July 2018.  He thanked Mr. Mathebula’s family for lending a son, brother, and father to protect the country’s natural heritage.

Mr. Mketeni said rangers who heed the call give the world peace, cohesion and provide reflection.  “The world of who we are is because they look after our heritage and the future and they bring peace in the world. In cases of war, parks are places of peace and healing.  As we commemorate our fallen heroes let us celebrate those who look after our future,” he said.

The Chair of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Fikile Xasa joined the Executive Mayor of Bushbuckridge, Clr Sylvia Nxumalo, in calling for greater awareness among communities of the threats of poaching, and the work of rangers, pledging to work closely with the Kruger National Park to ensure that illegal wildlife crime is minimised and communities can benefit from the natural environment tourists come to enjoy.

Senior police and defence force officials pledged continued support to the Kruger National Park and to rangers in the field who ensure that the country’s natural heritage is protected for future generations.

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