Minister Edna Molewa’s speech at the World Rhino Day parade
Pretoria, 21 September 2013
The Chief Executive of SANParks, Dr David Mabunda,
The Managing Director of the National Zoological Gardens,
The MMC for Environmental Management Services in the City of Tshwane,
Principals, Educators and Learners,
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would at the outset like to thank the Children of South Africa, particularly the children who participated in today’s Street Parade, for showing your support for the work being done by government to fight the scourge of rhino poaching.
It is only through your efforts, those of your parents, educators and the community at large, working in together with government, that the problem of rhino poaching can be effectively addressed in South Africa.
Tomorrow, September the 22nd, is World Rhino Day.
Today marks the first time that we, as the South African government and our partners, have come together to show our support for the efforts to fight poaching of our rhino.
The theme of this year’s World Rhino Day is Five Rhino Species Forever.
The international theme is clarion call that we, as the custodians, of the last five remaining species of rhino in the world, ensure their future survival.
In South Africa, we are faced with a threat to our white and black rhino populations. Our country must stave off losing our proud conservation status gained by bringing the white rhino back from the brink of extinction more than 50 years ago.
Today there are approximately 18 000 white and 4 000 black rhino in South Africa. Twenty-five percent of these rhino are privately-owned.
Because of the increase in rhino poaching since 2008, rhinos have been at the centre of the world’s attention. This is because losing a rhino not only disturbs the ecological balance, but also harms the South African economy through the resulting harm it does to the tourism industry as a job creator, and poses a security threat as international poaching syndicates cross illegally into South Africa to rob this precious animal of its horn.
In the Memorandum handed to me by the Children of South Africa, you have articulated what the majority of South Africans, and the leadership of our beautiful country feels – that we are all touched, that we are all worried about the poaching of rhino.
I can assure you that we will not allow rhino to become extinct on our watch. We, as the government, working with our partners in the Justice and Security Cluster, SANParks and other private entities are working hard to meet the continuous challenges being presented in dealing with the poaching crisis.
The spate of rhino poaching has strengthened our resolve and determination to work tirelessly to address this plague.
Among the latest developments is the work being done by the Department of Environmental Affairs, on consultation with the National Treasury, to establish the National Rhino Fund to address all interventions directed to rhino poaching.
The establishment of the National Rhino Fund, and the compilation of a database of all NGOs, NPOs and any other organizations and/ or individuals who raise funds to save the rhino are among the recommendations being implemented following the adoption of the Rhino Issue Management report by Cabinet earlier this year.
The National Rhino Fund will result in the consolidation of all funding requirements and ensure that funding is distributed successfully to state- and privately-owned rhino anti-poaching initiatives, including conservation, safety and security, skills development and research.
With regard to the establishment of a national database of all non-profit and non-governmental organisations and individuals involved in fighting rhino poaching, the Department and stakeholders agreed at a workshop in Pretoria last month that everyone involved in efforts to fight rhino poaching needs to register with the Department. A registration campaign will be launched soon.
The National Environmental Management Laws First Amendment Act (NEMLA) aimed at strengthening the regulatory and enforcement provisions to prevent abuse of the hunting permitting system was only recently introduced and is being implemented as we speak.
Another step taken towards finding a solution to the poaching scourge was the authorisation granted to the Department of Environmental Affairs in July by the Cabinet that South Africa prepare and submit a rhino trade proposal for consideration at the 17th Conference of Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2016.
The decision to table a proposal at the next CITES CoP was not taken lightly. It followed an extensive public consultation process, nationally and internationally. I want to emphasise that international trade for commercial purposes will only be allowed if approved by the Conference of Parties.
I am renewing my appeal that trade not be viewed in isolation from all our endeavours to save our rhinos.
I welcome the call you, as the youth, have made to all young people across the world to become part of an international awareness campaign to inform people about the seriousness of rhino poaching.
With regard to your call to have a force on the ground to combat and intimidate poachers and prevent them from entering our conservation areas, I would like to respond by saying that our security forces, rangers working in national parks such as the Kruger National Park, provincial and privately-owned game reserves, are working around the clock to combat poaching in South Africa.
This work includes the gathering of intelligence. You, as the youth, educators and community at large, can contribute to the war against rhino poaching by reporting any suspicious activities or information you have about poaching to the Department’s hotline, or to the police.
We will not allow our rhino population to be decimated on our watch.
Our rhino population may still be viable and stable, but it will require concerted effort, and the involvement of all, to end the on-going poaching of our rhino.
Through the Department’s work with stakeholders and communities inside and outside South Africa, it has become abundantly clear that no single community or country can work on its own to combat wildlife crime.
That is why we are working towards greater cooperation with all roleplayers; we are working to introduce international biodiversity cooperation agreements with countries in the Far East and Africa; and we are part of a task team with Mozambique to investigate, among other matters, the temporary re-erection of the border fence between our two countries as means of stopping poachers and the implementation of cross-border pursuits to ensure poachers entering South Africa from Mozambique are arrested and the horns they poachers, recovered.
Protecting our rhino is your responsibility. Protecting our rhino is my responsibility. Protecting our rhino is our responsibility as this collective.