Department of Environmental Affairs acknowledges the sterling work of Environmental Monitors at Isimangaliso Wetland Park Authority

24 April 2018

 

The Department of Environmental Affairs has acknowledged the sterling work done by the Environmental Monitors (EM) in fostering law enforcement at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday 24 April 2018.

Currently we have 1 659 (Environmental Monitors) young South Africans working within the various South African National Parks (SANParks), provincial and private nature reserves to increase conservation capacity through patrols, biodiversity monitoring, environmental education and awareness within different communities. They operate throughout South Africa on 8 public entities, including iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, and 25 private nature reserves, with SANParks’ Biodiversity Social Projects (BSP) as the implementing agent.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa has commended the efforts of the Environmental Monitors, saying the initiative has significantly contributed to the fight against the scourge of rhino poaching. “Last year alone, at least 1 659 Environmental Monitors were deployed in rhino poaching hotspots to assist with environmental protection. These Environmental Monitors will be further empowered to become Rhino Ambassadors in these rhino poaching hotspots,” said Minister Molewa.

The EMs programme has not only been instrumental in assisting with successful arrest, investigation and sentencing of poachers, but has also assisted in the reduction of wildlife poaching by 50% and a 76% reduction in snaring of animals in public and private reserves.

Between 2013 and 2016, the programme received several national and international awards in recognition of the work done by environmental monitors in their different fields of operation. These awards included the following: Best EPWP Kamoso National Programme, Best Rhino Conservation, Best Biodiversity Special Programme, SANParks Kudu Awards – Best Programme in 2012 and 2013 and United Nations Environment Programme: Champions of the Earth.

The programme forms part of the government’s concerted efforts to address the challenge of wildlife crime, particularly rhino poaching, while contributing to creation of decent job opportunities. The national programme is currently funded to the tune of more than R235 million as part of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

Minister Molewa added that as an EPWP, the programme does not only assist with ensuring biodiversity conservation for the benefit of the current and future generations, but also creates opportunities for much needed jobs and skills development.

“Since inception over 2 000 environmental monitors have participated in the programme focusing on Patrols, Environmental Monitoring and Education, “said Minister Molewa. The success of the programme has led to some private entities permanently absorbing some of the monitors into permanent positions.

At least 112 Environmental Monitors operate within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, performing law enforcement duties, inclusive of patrols, game monitoring, game counts, assist with accompanying researchers on their research fieldworks within the park and clerical duties.

The Park Authority also provides training in various areas such as field ranger law enforcement, crime scene handling, arrest procedures, court and evidence presentation with an aim to further capacitate Environmental Monitors to grow in respect to their work and area they are based in. With the training and work experience, Environmental Monitors would be appointable as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Honorary Officers.

Some of the host institutions where the EMs assisting with research, awareness and training within local communities include the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary School; the Southern African Wildlife College; the Wits Rural Facility and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON).

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