Custodians Must Join Forces on Rhinos
Without collaboration between the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, relevant government departments like the Home Affairs’ Customs Unit and the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA), there was no chance of winning the fight against rhino poaching. That is what the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs, Adv Johnny De Lange told the Department’s deputy Director general, Mr Fundisile Mkhetheni today.
“If the Department works in isolation from other key role-players it cannot have a good database of correct information on which to formulate implementable strategies to curb rhino poaching” said Adv De Lange. While there were serious policy coordination weaknesses, rhino poaching would continue to rise at an alarming rate. “For instance, you must have the recent and the historical record of prosecution on rhino poaching at your disposal at all times,” he said.
The Committee would hold a workshop for relevant role-players, “where the roles should be clearly defined.”
Mr Mkhetheni told Members of the Committee that since the escalation of rhino poaching in 2008, the Department had implemented different intervention strategies that included legislative and policy provisions, placing a moratorium on trade in horn in South Africa, and creating norms and standards for the marking of rhino horn and the hunting of white rhino for trophy purposes.
According to Mr Mkhetheni, the Department is strengthening collaboration with international role-players. South Africa participates in the Interpol Wildlife Sub-group and organises Interpol operations in South Africa. It has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with countries such as Vietnam on wildlife enforcement matters
He said the Department had discouraged dehorning, which was proposed by private owners of rhino to fight rhino poaching. The Department had commissioned a study on dehorning and the results were with the Minister, who would release them soon.
It emerged during the hearings that South Africa was home to more than 80% of the world rhinos, and based on that alone South Africa ought to be the leader in conversing rhinos.
Mr Andrew Muir who made a presentation on behalf of Wilderness Foundation told Members of the Committee that South Africa should avoid being forgotten for hosting a successful 2010 Soccer World Cup, and remembered for rhino extinction. “We are the custodians of rhinos, so we must lead in protecting this very important animal” said Mr Muir.
Among the factors that led to the escalation of rhino poaching was a decrease in conservation budgets. “Budgets should be jacked up: currently, successful conservation of rhino demands currently R25,000 per rhino per year,” Mr Muir said.
Stronger law enforcement, better intelligence and high penalties were highlighted as among the practical solutions to curb rhino poaching.
by Mava Lukani