Speech by Minister Molewa to see off endangered black rhino being translocated to chad

Speech delivered by Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, to see off endangered black rhino being translocated to Chad 

Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
3 May 2018

 

Ambassador of the Republic of Chad to the Republic of South Africa, his Excellency, Mr Sagour Youssouf Mahamat Itno
Representatives of SANParks and African Parks
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to you all.

How apt and befitting it is, Mr Ambassador, that this ceremony should take place at the start of Africa Month, a time when we commemorate the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the African Union (AU). For this is indeed a historic occasion for South Africa, for Chad and for the entire African continent.

We note the aspiration of the AU’s Agenda 2063 of ‘an integrated continent, politically united, and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.’

Today, Ladies and Gentlemen, is truly a great leap forward for conservation on the African continent, and heralds a glorious new era of cooperation between our two countries.

In years to come, the peoples of our two countries will look back on this occasion- that marks the return of the black rhino to Chad for the first time in 46 years – as having been a fundamental building block of Africa’s Renaissance.

It has been a long journey, and one that certainly hasn’t been without its challenges. Yet here we are!

Thanks to the efforts of our great teams in both countries, ensuring all the necessary systems were in place, dealing with seemingly endless mountains of paperwork, and shuttling back and forth as part of what we can call our “Rhino-plomacy” we have made it happen. I think you all deserve a hand!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The translocation of these animals has its genesis in a meeting in October last year between ourselves as the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and the then Minister of Environment and Fisheries of the Republic of Chad, Dr Ahmat Mbodou Mahamat –where we signed two Memoranda of Understanding that paved the way for the translocation of six black rhino from South Africa to Chad.

I want to reaffirm here, Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, as we always do, that South Africa’s policies on the sustainable utilization of wildlife have proven time and again to be a success – and this translocation is evidence of that.

In line with our long-term strategy, South Africa intends to increase numbers of wildlife across Africa by relocating groups of rhino and other animals, to new protected areas.

This is being done through partnerships with local and regional conservation agencies and potential recipient countries - who are able to provide appropriate and safe conservation areas and appropriate plans.

Black rhino have been translocated by SANParks to Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and white rhino have been moved to Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique.  Rhino have also been translocated to Kenya and Swaziland by South Africa.

Our country is home to the world’s largest rhino population: with more than 20 000 rhino: of this there are approximately 2 000 black rhino and approximately 18 000 white rhino. 

Although once found in 28 African countries, the black rhino are now restricted to only a handful of countries. Chad has historically been home to the Northern White Rhinoceros, which most likely occurred in areas that now form part of southern Chad, and the Western Black Rhinoceros lived in Zakouma up to 1972.

Regrettably, poaching took its toll on these magnificent animals and lead to their local extinction. The IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group notes that the Western black rhino was officially recorded as extinct in Chad in 2006.

South Africa remains committed to doing our part to ensure that rhinonumbers in Africa grow – and this partnership is an illustration of that commitment.

The signing of the custodianship agreement for rhino between our two countries is in line with a pledge made in 2013 by our Heads of State to work towards reintroducing black rhinoceros to Chad.

In preparation for this translocation, a team of experts from South Africa visited Chad in 2017 to assess the habitat, security and management suitability and associated ecological parameters, as well as infrastructural readiness.

This built on a feasibility study undertaken by the IUCN Species Survival CommissionAfrican Rhino Specialist Group in 2015.  The Republic of Chad had earlier signed an agreement with African Parks Network which allows African Parks Network to manage the country’s national parks. The management of the rhino will be done in accordance with African Rhino Range States’ African Rhino Conservation Plan launched during CITES COP17 in Johannesburg in September 2016.

In the seven years since the Government of Chad delegated management of Zakouma National Park to African Parks, extensive law enforcement measures and community programmes have seen poaching almost totally eliminated.  One notes for instance that the elephant population is on the increase for the first time in decades.

These rhino, which are being loaded for transport to Zakouma here in the Addo Elephant National Park today, were captured in the Marakele National Park in January this year.

They have been held in the boma here at Addo as a means of adjustment for the 15-hour journey by plane to the Zakouma National Park.

The MOU has given rise to a bilateral custodianship arrangement between our countries, which means the rhino will be placed under the protective care of the Republic of Chad. They can however be used to establish new rhino populations within the continent in line with the African Rhino Range States Conservation Plan.  Any calves born by these rhino will belong to Chad.

The spirit of the agreement acknowledges that in case of a dire need for the reintroduction of Black Rhinos to South Africa in the future, the Republic of Chad undertakes to make the offspring available, either to supplement or re-establish South Africa’s Black Rhino population on a reciprocal basis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are all too aware that the translocation of these animals is taking place against  tragic backdrop, as poaching and the illicit wildlife trade continues to wreak havoc on Africa’s biological assets. Translocation is but one of the interventions being implemented by South Africa a part of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach.

Our approach includes compulsory interventions, interventions to increase rhino numbers, long-term sustainability interventions and game-changing interventions.

We have also concluded Memoranda of Understanding with a number of other countries in the fields of Biodiversity Management and Conservation, namely Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group has repeatedly affirmed that the responsibility for the conservation of the critically endangered black rhinoceros lies within Africa. This translocation is an African solution for an African problem.

The international management of the species within Africa has and will continue to serve as a model for international collaboration around conservation as well as of conservation best practice.

Our active involvement on Trans-frontier Conservation Programme involving countries of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia also presents opportunities for further collaboration with our neighbours on a conservation matters of mutual interest.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is not the end of involvement by South Africa and South African National Parks in conservation of rhinos and other species on the continent. In fact, it heralds a new beginning.

We remain hopeful that the translocation of black rhino to Chad will contribute to the further strengthening of our bilateral relations.

I want to thank all who were part of making this initiative a success, and congratulate them for a job well done. I also want to take this opportunity to call on all our conservation partners to continue to make funding available to support our efforts and to strengthen the fight against poaching and the trafficking of wildlife.

Our rhino range states have shown sterling political will as we work together to conserve our shared heritage. Let us build on this and see many more such initiatives in future.

I thank you.