Speech at the occasion of receiving black rhino from South Africa, marking reintroduction after 46 years of the extinction of the western black rhino in Chad

Presented by his Excellency, Ambassador of South Africa to Chad, Ambassador Titus Matlakeng

4 May 2018

His Excellency, the Honourable President of the Republic of Chad, President Idris Derby ITNO,
The Minister of Environment, Water and Fisheries, H.E Mr Mr Siddick Abdelkerim Haggar,
The Ambassador of the Republic of Chad to the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency, Ambassador Sagour Youssouf Mahamat ITNO,
The Ambassador of the European Union,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Senior officials from the governments of the Republic of Chad and visiting senior officials from the Republic of South Africa,
Representatives of the South African National Parks comprising Scientists and Veterinary Doctors,
Representatives of the African Parks Networks,
Members of the Media from South Africa, Chad and elsewhere,

Ladies and Gentlemen

We are greatly honoured to be here and would like to thank the government of Chad for the warm welcome and good courtesy we continue to receive in this beautiful country. Firstly, I present to you greetings from the Government of South Africa, in particular the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Molewa, who was unable to make it to this auspicious occasion on account of other pressing government engagements.

The Minister has however officiated the preceding event to mark the departure of these black rhinos from South Africa yesterday morning. It was indeed a momentous occasion witnessing history in the making. The Minister wished the black rhinos a safe arrival to this beautiful landscapes of the Zakouma National Park and we are all witnesses to this happening. I concur with the sentiments widely raised that this unprecedented collaboration between the South African and Chadian Governments, as enabled through SANParks and African Parks, marks a new beginning for the reoccurrence of this iconic species that was lost in this country after almost fifty years of local extinction.   

Programme director, it is worth noting that this historic event is happening at the start of Africa Month, a time of  commemorating the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the African Union (AU) and indeed advances it’s principle of an Africa that is United.  The initiative also advances the aspirations of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union which advocates for an integrated continent, politically united, and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.

I am delighted that South Africa’s conservation success, particularly in saving the Black Rhino from extinction enabled this contribution that marks the historic return of this iconic species to the Republic of Chad.  My fervent hope is that this reintroduction will contribute to the strengthening of conservation and tourism sectors that are critical in advancing economic growth, social cohesion, and rural development in both countries.

The development of communities that are bordering national parks and similar establishments, further creates opportunities for the enhancement of the livelihoods of our people, thus accordingly creating jobs, alleviating poverty and boosting local enterprises. This is well in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which encourages partnership, through development that will attain the “future we want” as the African continent.

The governments of Chad and South Africa worked very hard to formalise our relations in the field of conservation. In October 2017, the two Ministers, Dr Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs in South Africa and the then Minister of Environment, Water and Fisheries of the Republic of Chad, Dr Ahmat Mbodou Mahamat, signed Memoranda of Understanding in the field of Biodiversity Conservation and Management, and another one on the Cooperation on the Reintroduction of Black Rhino to the Republic of Chad. The signing of the custodianship agreement for rhino between the two countries will advance a pledge made in 2013 by our Heads of State to work towards reintroducing black rhinoceros into Chad. Further, is the reaffirmation of our commitment to a structured partnership and cooperation that can only secure the survival of the rhino species in the wild?  This is in line with the vision of the Africa Rhino Range States’ Africa Rhino Conservation Plan, which was launched in September 2016, during the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES COP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This continental plan seeks to identify and focus on areas where collectively and co-operatively there may be opportunities for range states to work together to enhance rhino conservation.  These include enhancing effective funding for conservation, increasing co-operative sharing and analysis of intelligence information, as well as boosting political support for rhino conservation across the continent. In terms of the management of rhino populations, the plan calls for the co-operative management and expansion of rhino populations across the African landscape to achieve sustained growth rates of Rhino populations, and to conserve genetic diversity with decision-making informed by adequate standardised monitoring.

Programme Director, I would like to reemphasise this initiative transcends beyond translocation but include cooperation on biodiversity conservation, protected areas management, wildlife  management and ensuring benefits to provisions and the cooperative spirit  of these  MOUs. Both countries agreed to share experiences and expertise in conservation matters and to assist each other on reciprocal basis. Further discussions will also ensue on translocations or programmes of joint protection of other species of mutual conservation management concern, especially those that would strengthen sustainable use as a conservation approach.

Working together as a Continent, we should continue to strive towards overcoming the plight of extinction of our iconic species that define our common heritage. The recent recorded demise of the northern white rhino is a case in point where only two female surviving individuals are said to be only found in the captive facility or a zoo. It is through this kind of collaboration that we can avoid the plight that befell such and other species. We must continue working together to fight and win the war against threats to our iconic species including Rhino, Lion, Leopard, and Elephant. These threats are among others, poaching, illegal wildlife trade, loss of habitats, human wildlife conflict, as well as challenges in the management of conservation areas and wildlife corridors.

In the same spirit of a United Africa, we need to strive for common African  positions in multilateral negotiations  such as  the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD), The Convention on International Trade in Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification(UNCCD),  especially on matters of common interest. 

This initiative, therefore, reaffirms our collective commitment to ensuring that the Rhino remains an active part of our existence and thus always tread on our higher conservation calling marred by sustainable use and beneficiation of our peoples. I conclude by encouraging us to advance notion that says human induced extinction must not happen under our guard – “not on our watch!”                                                 

I thank you