World Wildlife Day 2020 marked by South Africa

3 March 2020

The 3rd of March marks the celebration of the World Wildlife Day 2020 under the theme “Sustaining all life on Earth”. This theme is more relevant to South Africa given its unique status among the most mega diverse countries of the world. The rich biodiversity and ecosystems that sustain life come with responsibility for the country to conserve and ensure that their utilisation are sustainable. 

The challenges of biodiversity loss, land degradation and climate change pose a threat to meeting Sustainable Development Goals that underpin the reversal of poverty and associated development challenges. South Africa is making a concerted effort to combat wildlife crime, particularly poaching of iconic species and associated illicit trade affecting diverse species including iconic species of rhino, elephant, lion, pangolin, cycads and may other species of mammals, plants, reptiles, amphibians. Our country, supported by its people, partners and in cooperation with other countries, will continue with these efforts in an integrated manner until this war is won.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is encouraged by the recently released 2019 rhino poaching figures, indicating a steady decline in rhino poaching in South Africa for the fourth consecutive year.  During 2019, 594 rhino were poached in South Africa, down from 769 rhino killed during the previous year. 

“The decline in the number of rhino poached is an indication that the initiatives being implemented by government and with the support of partners, are working, but we cannot rest on our laurels.  Plans to combat wildlife crime are constantly being updated and adapted to meet the incessant and ever-present threat.  We are also making greater use of innovative ideas and new technologies as government in order to address the relentless onslaught against our natural resources and ecosystems. Entities such as the SANParks, SANBI, CSIR, iSimangaliso,  and provincial conservation agencies  work together to ensure that our plant and animal life is preserved and conserved for current and future generations. We do this with the understanding that threats to wildlife have multiple and undesirable ecological, economic and social effects” said Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy.

“I would like to thank the men and women, who are dedicated to protecting wildlife thus playing their part in sustaining life on earth. Foremost are the Rangers who are on the front line of combating wildlife crime and also ensuring minimum losses through their higher efficiency.   The hard- earned success and safeguarding of half the country’s rhino population could only be achieved with the now proven recipe of good leadership and a well-trained, equipped and disciplined Ranger Service, including the Air Wing and Canine Units. Partners in the security cluster and NGO’s continue to play their part in the integrated approach employed to safeguard wildlife. “But, our successes could not have been achieved without the cooperation of communities, particularly those living adjacent to conservation areas,” said the Minister.

Our iconic species, unique biomes and landscapes contributes greatly to economic growth through the tourism industry and other forms of economic activities that are dependent on wildlife.  Tourism, particularly eco-tourism contributes to job creation and the development of secondary businesses which, in turn, play acritical role in rural areas through many forms of job creation and induced value chains. 

Celebrations on World Wildlife Day are part of what has become known as the “biodiversity super year” - a year key to achieving goals spelt out in the Sustainable Development agenda, as well as the Convention on Biological Diversity.  This is the year dedicated to finalising a new deal for people and nature post 2020 into 2050.

From South Africa’s perspective, climate change, biodiversity loss as well as poverty are the foremost critical trends which negatively affect not only the country, but the region as a whole. By extension, these are mega-trends which have a global character, since biodiversity loss and climate change have a causal effect on water security, health and threatens food security.

It is through the National Climate Change Response, that South Africa underscored the role of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Sector as one of the sectors vulnerable to climate change, and yet invaluable in climate change responses. South Africa will continue to pursue ecosystem-based adaptation interventions have been devised to address climate change and desertification as major threats to biodiversity.

As part of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, South Africa supports the development of a “good and fair new deal for nature and people”.  As such, the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework must hold the 2050 CBD Vision as a reference, calibrated towards its achievement through milestones embedded on 2030 outcomes. Negotiations must respect the balance between maintaining the outstanding elements from the pre-2020 agreement, while also providing ambition for the Post-2020 commitments and action. Such a deal should give a balance between conservation, sustainable use and benefit sharing.

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Albi Modise
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