Pretoria — Water and Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa says rhino poaching in the country is a cause for concern as it is continuing to increase at an alarming rate.
Molewa is now calling for more public involvement in the efforts to reduce rhino poaching in the country.
She also took the opportunity to congratulate members of the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU) for their escalating number of arrests of suspected poachers and related criminals.
Since January 2011, a total of 51 rhinos have been poached across the country. The figures are constituted as follows; Kruger National Park 33; Limpopo 8, Mpumalanga 1, North West 1, Eastern Cape 2, Free State 1, Kwazulu-Natal 4 and Western Cape 1.
“It is important to note that in the Kruger National Park alone since January 2010 a total of 182 rhinos have been lost, 110 of which were lost in the eastern border of the park.
“Since January 2010 more rhinos have been lost in our provincial game parks the provinces in the eastern borders of South Africa (KZN, Limpopo and Mpumalanga) with 120 poached in these provinces.
“It has come to our attention that this is particularly because of criminal elements using the border between South Africa and Mozambique,” she said.
South Africa and Mozambique have signed a historic agreement to drop fences between the two countries for biodiversity reasons in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
Evidently, this has been exploited by criminal elements. Working together with her Mozambican counterpart, Molewa will address this concern.
“This bilateral with Mozambique will address among others how we should jointly strengthen and upgrade the security situation to arrest the scourge of rhino poaching.
“We also would want to share with our Mozambican counterparts our initiatives that allow collaboration between various security agencies to deal with poaching as a priority crime.
“The rhino poaching situation calls for drastic measures to be applied and the Minister is convinced that working together with our national security agencies, we should be able to strengthen all our national entry points like the OR Tambo International Airport and others,” she said.
The minister is happy to note that the establishment of the NWCRU has led to a significant increase in the number of recorded arrests of suspects related to rhino poaching.
Since January 2010, 44 suspected poachers have been arrested throughout the country. Though Molewa is satisfied with the work being done by partners in the NWCRU, it is her view that more needs to be done and this can only be achieved through the collective efforts of all South Africans as well as the involvement of our SADC neighbours since poachers have no respect for any political boundaries.
“Our nation and continent’s heritage is under threat from criminals who believe the irresponsible stories being perpetuated that one can get rich on rhino poaching while the reality is far from this, the only ones who make any money are the ruthless leaders of the syndicates,” she said.