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Minister Edna Molewa marks World Wildlife Day with the handover of rhino to the Mdluli Tribal Authority, Mpumalanga

03 March 2014

 

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, has urged communities, particularly those adjacent to the Kruger National Park, to be vigilant and report any suspect activities that are linked to rhino poaching.

The Minister joined the Mayor Mbombela, members of the Mduli Tribal Authority, members of the Matimbela, Nkambeni, Daatjie, Hoxani and Msogwaba Tribal Authorities and learners at Pretoriuskop in the Kruger National Park today  (3 March 2014) to celebrate the first international World Wildlife Day. The celebration comes as South Africa celebrates twenty years of freedom and democracy.

The gathering is in line with the adoption at the 40th anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2013 of a resolution that 3 March of each year be celebrated as World Wildlife Day.  The United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2013 adopted this Resolution making 3 March a day on which we celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of fauna and flora.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), as the National Management Authority for CITES in South Africa, was requested by the CITES Secretariat to observe and raise awareness of World Wildlife Day in an appropriate manner, in accordance with national priorities.  The objective of the celebration is not only to honour the many beautiful and varied forms of fauna and flora, but to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that wildlife provides to people, and of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, which had wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.

The gathering of around 500 people, including chiefs, community members and school children was an opportunity to recall the privileged interactions between wildlife and communities in South Africa, and worldwide. In South Africa, communities not only interact with wildlife as tourists, but benefit financially from the tourism services sector and also derive other values which are known and valued by different communities.

The theme of World Wildlife Day aligns perfectly with key wildlife matters in South Africa, including the fight against rhino poaching.   The Minister said communities living in close proximity to the Kruger Park are often aware of the plight of the rhino and all the steps being taken by the government and institutions such as SANParks, as well as the private sector, to combat the scourge of rhino poaching.

“We are being robbed of our heritage by criminals with no respect for our nation and our pride as a people,” said Minister Molewa.

Wildlife crimes, including rhino poaching, are among the most significant syndicate-led crimes of our time.  These crimes rank among drug trafficking, arms smuggling and human trafficking as the top syndicate crimes in the world today. South Africa is not immune to the challenges posed by crimes that have a significant impact on the environmentand ultimately the economy of our country through the effects they have on tourism and job creation. The crime of rhino poaching is real and South Africans from all walks of life, need to find solutions nationally, regionally and internationally to deal with these crimeseffectively.

“We need to join hands and work together to fight these criminals,” the Minister appealed. “These solutions need to be sought in partnership with stakeholders in the rhino and wildlife industries including communities, and with our partners within government especially the enforcement and security authorities in the country.”

The Minister, the Acting Chief Executive of SANParks, Mr Themba Mabilane, the Managing Executive of the Kruger National Park, Dr Abe Sibiya,  chairperson of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, Kgoshi Mathibela Mokoena,  Kgosi Isaac Mdluli of the Mduli Tribal Authority and senior Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks officials witness the capture of a rhino near Pretoriuskop prior to the start of the formal proceedings. 

Kgosi Isaac Mdluli of the Mdluli Tribal Authority received the rhino during a ceremonial handover from the Minister.  The rhino is one of five rhino being donated by SANParks to the Mdluli Tribal Authority as part of the community’s contribution to conserving these magnificent animals.  The relocation of the rhino to Mdluli community land is an example of the sustainable utilisation of our country’s natural resources. It has become international practice to engage and involve communities in the conservation of natural heritage to ensure there is a buy-in into the conservation idea, and thus greater success in conserving our environment.

The land of the Mdluli Community, which straddles the Kruger National Park, was successfully restored to the community in 1998.  This land is now part of a development partnership between the community and the Kruger National Park and has included the establishment of viable wildlife populations managed by the community.

With the future of the rhino being threatened by unscrupulous poachers, the role of local communities plays an important role in ensuring that these criminal are brought to book.  Current analysis has revealed that a significant number of poaching incidents originate from around the Mdluli area.

The Minister said the donation of the rhino to the Mdluli community should serve as an incentive to encourage all communities to help in the fight against rhino poaching.  It is hoped that ownership of these animals will promote awareness and increase the wildlife ecotourism potential of the community’s land.

“By placing the future of these five rhino in your care enhances the government’s belief and policy that the animals in national parks, provincial and private game reserves, are owned by all South Africans.  This means that we all need to ensure they are protected for future generations,” said Minister Molewa. 

South Africa’s policy on sustainable utilisation has resulted in the significant growth of our rhino population from 20 – 50 animals by the end of the 19th century to more than 18 000 animals today. This policy has been critiqued by some, but the result speaks for itself. South Africa is protecting just over 93% of Africa’s wild white rhino. This conservation success is directly linked and supported by South Africa’s sustainable utilisation policy.

Actions such as increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities and eradicate poverty are aligned to the government’s key priorities, including the People and Parks Resolutions adopted in 2012.  Through the People and Parks Programme a common approach is sought to address emotive issues at the interface between conservation and communities. 

As part of South Africa’s efforts to address the menace of rhino poaching, additional rangers, soldiers and police have been deployed across the country, particularly here, in the Kruger National Park, to trace and bring to book the poachers responsible for killing rhino for their horns.  This resulted in a considerable increase in the number of rhino poachers arrested during 2013 with 343 being arrested, most of them in the Kruger National Park.  In 2012, 267 alleged poachers were arrested.

The increase in the number of arrests is indicative of the success of interventions undertaken by SANParks in collaboration with some of the country's law enforcement agencies, beginning to yield positive results against rhino poaching.

The Minister expressed deep concern at the magnitude of rhino poaching in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, especially since this iconic species has become the focus of international poaching syndicates.  

“Solutions to be sought in collaboration with stakeholders and experts in the rhino sector during 2014 will meet South Africa’s sustainable management and adaptive management practices that will ensure the country can continue to maintain its proud conservation record and that communities contributing to the conservation of species benefit financially from the restoration and protection of species.”

While a variety of steps are being taken by the government, SANParks, private rhino owners, Non-Governmental Organisations and business to address the scourge of rhino poaching, new initiatives are being introduced to ensure the illegal killing of South Africa’s rhino is halted.

Among the latest steps being taken is the implementation of the National Rhino Stockpile Database – a requirement contained in the 2012 revised norms and standards for the marking of rhino horn and for the hunting of rhinoceros for trophies. These norms and standards put in place stricter controls for the issuing of rhino hunting permits, hunting of rhino and the transportation of the horn, which resulted in a significant reduction in the number of hunting applications received.

The centralisation of the database is an important step in determining the size and scale of the rhino horn stockpile, and ensuring stricter control over the issuing of rhino hunting permits.  Officials at national and provincial level have already undergone training on the new system which is to be implemented soon by conservation authorities. 

To access the Minister’s speech, please click on the link below:

>> Minister Edna Molewa’s speech at the celebration of the World Wildlife Day event.

For media inquiries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871