South Africa and Mozambique agree to improved cooperation on combating rhino poaching within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area

15 June 2013

 

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, yesterday, 14 June 2013 held constructive talks with Mozambique Minister of Tourism, Mr Carvalho Muaria, in Maputo on concrete actions to be taken by both countries to combat the scourge of rhino poaching.

The talks focused on the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, established in 2002, with an emphasis on joint cooperation between South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe on issues of cross-border conservation.

The unfortunate scourge of rhino poaching that has resulted in the killing of 408 rhinos in South Africa since the beginning of the year led to these frank and open talks on means to deal with the problem.

A total number of 265 rhinos have been poached in the Kruger National Park, which forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and which shares an eastern border with Mozambique, since January 2013.  Since 2008, 2062 rhinos have been poached for their horns in South Africa.

Of the 121 poachers arrested nationally, a total of 56 suspected poachers were arrested in the Kruger National Park.  Of the 119 alleged poachers presently facing prosecution in South African courts, 37 are foreign nationals and 24 of those are Mozambicans.

The objective of the Ministerial meeting was to discuss the successes achieved by this partnership between South Africa and Mozambique on the management of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

Minister Molewa was accompanied by the Mpumalanga MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Ms Pinky Phosa, the CEO of SANParks Dr David Mabunda and the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Deputy Director General: Biodoversity and Conservation, Mr Fundisile Mketeni. 

The two countries agreed to continue to build on the original vision of the transboundary conservation area encapsulated by leaders such as ailing former President Nelson Mandela and former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, and Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe to ensure the TFCA was a region of peace, security and reconciliation and would not continue down the path of a war zone.

The Ministers acknowledged that both countries are faced with the challenge of addressing a loss of heritage and the loss of lives, agreeing that this was an area where joint cooperation was required most.

South Africa and Mozambique not only shared a common border, but also common languages and a common heritage. 

The Ministers agreed that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Mozambique and South Africa on cooperation in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Management be signed as soon as possible and that steps to finalise the document be taken urgently.

The Ministers also agreed that a task team, comprising all departments and state institutions dealing with poaching and safety and security, give immediate attention to a set of recommendations agreed to by both countries.

 The recommendations included:

  • The establishment of a joint law enforcement operation in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park that includes the revival of cross-border hot pursuits.
  • The signing of cooperation agreement by the Ministers on the joint protection and management of elephant and rhino within the GLTP and the Great Limpopo Conservation area.
  • Interventions aimed at creating sustainable jobs and improving the livelihoods of communities surrounding the GLTP.
  • The erection of a effective fence around the GLTP in order to halt human incursions into the conservation area and as a means of curbing poaching.

 “We had very frank discussions with our counterparts in Mozambique and we are glad that we are moving forward. It is an indication that we can work together to curb this problem of poaching,” said Minister Molewa after the Ministerial meeting.

 The Minister noted the steps being taken by Mozambique to address the problems of rhino and elephant poaching, including the relocation of communities still residing within the boundaries of the TFCA.

 The Minister welcomed the relocation of communities out of the TFCA, expressing satisfaction that the process to move 1200 families will be completed by 2016.

Minister Muaria said the relocation of communities needed to include actions that would result in the upliftment of young people and a move away from poverty through the creation of sustainable projects.

 Minister Molewa said the signing of an MOU before the end of January 2014 would assist in building joint cooperation in security, the sharing of information, the exchange of technology and the harmonisation of legislation as was stated in the Treaty establishing the TFCA in 2002.

 South Africa was interested in arresting the kingpins behind the rhino illegal trade as this would not only eliminate the problem of poaching, but also stop syndicates from preying on poor communities and individuals trapped in poverty.

 “We are worried as South Africa that our rhino are being poached. We need to work much harder to solve the problem of poaching and today we have recommitted ourselves to working together, and as SADC as a whole,” said Minister Molewa.

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