President Jacob Zuma leads Anti-Rhino Poaching Awareness Day in the Kruger National Park

01 November 2015


President Jacob Zuma on Sunday, 1 November 2015, led an anti-rhino poaching awareness day in the Kruger National Park, and officially launched the Joint Operation Centre in Skukuza.

President Zuma, accompanied by Environmental Affairs Minister, Mrs Edna Molewa, the acting premier of Mpumalanga, Mr VR Shongwe, the acting premier of Limpopo, Mr Jerry Ndou, the Chief Executive of SANParks, Mr Fundisile Mketeni, community and traditional leaders, witness first-hand the extent of rhino poaching in South Africa, and the steps being taken by the government to address the matter.

President Zuma witnessed the capture and translocation of a rhino cow within the Kruger National Park to a facility where she will become a foster parent to rhino calves orphaned by poaching.

The President paid tribute to the efforts of rangers during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ranger Memorial at the Kruger Gate after inspecting a guard of honour formed by Kruger National Park rangers who are almost daily engaged in conflict with alleged poachers, and have dedicated their lives to ensuring the survival of this key member of the Big Five.

Unveiling the Joint Operations Centre at Skukuza, President Zuma, said:  “Today I witnessed first-hand what is being done by our brave men and women to combat rhino poaching and other wildlife crimes here in the Kruger National Park.”

Since the declaration of rhino poaching as a national security threat in 2011, the government has increased its efforts in curbing the scourge of Rhino poaching.  Cabinet approved the Integrated Strategic Management Approach to Rhino Poaching in 2014. The need for a strengthened approach, particularly on information coordination and strengthening of partnerships with neighbouring countries, law enforcement authorities as well as communities surrounding Parks have been prioritised.

The key aspects of this program are managing rhino populations, compulsory interventions (including proactive anti-poaching measures), international and national collaboration and cooperation, as well as long-term sustainability measures. Significant progress has been made with regards to the implementation of the interventions. 

One of the key milestones in the fight against Rhino poaching has been the establishment of the Mission Area Joint Operation Centre in the Kruger National Park by the SA Police Service to co-ordinate operations against rhino poaching by all affected government institutions. These are the Departments of Environmental Affairs and Defence, the SAPS, SANParks and Provincial Conservation Agencies.

The Centre was established to co-ordinate operations against rhino poaching by all affected government institutions – that is the Department of Environmental Affairs, the SA National Defence Force, the SA Police Service, SANParks and the Provincial Conservation Agencies. The Joint Operation Centre receives all operational information including intelligence, control airspace, command, and utilising such information for law enforcement purposes.

This Centre has already seen good results with Operation Rhino set to run until 2018.  We have recorded a number of successes due to improved information sharing, part of our game-changing interventions that include disrupting criminal syndicates.

“We are pleased to announce that joint situational awareness through electronic means and live-streaming of information now informs in-time decision making, faster reaction and more often proactive operations,” said President Zuma.  “This enables us to employ resources more intelligently and to be one step ahead of the poachers and their bosses.”

The President emphasised that battle against rhino poaching cannot be won without partnerships.

“The nature of this challenge requires our collective efforts as government working with the private sector, communities, civil society and the business sector to ensure the Integrated Strategic Management approach is successful, not only in South Africa, but also within Africa and in the rest of the world,” he said.

South Africa has also increased its international cooperation mindful of the international nature of the crime signing Memoranda of Understanding with People’s Public of Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China, Cambodia and Mozambique.

“These international partnerships are key to ensuring that the fight against poaching and illegal trade is addressed internationally, in light of the international nature of the crime,” said the President.

The MoU with Mozambique in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Management was signed on 17 April 2014.

The President met with President Filipe Nyusi, of Mozambique in October 2015.  During the discussions a wide range of bilateral, regional and international matters were reviewed. One of the areas discussed was collaborations between South Africa and Mozambique in ensuring a co-ordinated fight against poaching.

The South Africa-Mozambique Bi-National Commission chaired by the two Heads of State was launched. It is a a strategic mechanism through which the countries will structure relations going forward.

During his visit to the Joint Operations Centre, the President witnessed first-hand an extensive collection of counter-poaching equipment that, in line with continued bilateral cooperation and support, will be handed over to Mozambique’s Environmental Police in November 2015. This donation has made possible thanks to a partnership between SANParks and Peace Parks Foundation, under the auspices of the Rhino Protection Programme, so as to assist in strengthening Mozambique’s environmental law enforcement efforts.

In the coming month, Peace Parks Foundation will also deliver a small plane called the Savannah Light Sport Aircraft to the Limpopo National Park to assist them with aerial support.

In support of Mozambique developing socio-economic opportunities associated with the wildlife economy South Africa and Mozambique have completed the Second Phase of the introduction of a number of plains game species in the Limpopo National Park. 

Addressing more than 5 000 community members from Nkomazi and Bushbuckridge at the Skukuza Soccer Stadium, President Zuma emphasised the  important role communities and individuals can also play in the fight against rhino poaching.

“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to all communities living close to, or adjacent to, conservation areas, to be aware of the threats of rhino poaching. Many of you are also aware of the ability of unscrupulous poaching syndicates to exploit vulnerable people in your communities by offering them large amounts of money to kill and dehorn a rhino or an elephant.

“We all can do something to stop that – by blowing the whistle on all wildlife criminals.  As proclaimed on World Rhino Day:   We can all stand up and proclaim, no more,” said President Zuma. 

The President pointed out that rhino, as key members of the Big Five, contribute to job creation in rural communities, particularly those adjacent to conservation areas.  They contribute to local economic growth through eco-tourism and the local and foreign visitors to the reserves in communities every year. 

“Saving the rhino may ultimately save all our communities from poverty, increased crime and suffering,” he said. “I am convinced that through our concerted efforts in ensuring co-ordinated implementation of the integrated strategic approach to the management of Rhino populations, we will ultimately win the fight against Rhino poaching.”

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