S. African gov’t calls for review of efforts in war on illegal poaching

The South African government on Wednesday called for a review of efforts in the war on illegal poaching and wildlife trade.

“I am sure we all agree the time has come for us to review our efforts in the war on illegal poaching and wildlife trade,” Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy said at an event marking World Ranger Day.

The World Ranger Day commemoration took place in South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP) which borders Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The park bears the brunt of illegal poaching which has reached unprecedented levels in the past decade.

Creecy said she will be convening a meeting with Police Minister Bheki Cele and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola “so that we can better coordinate our collective efforts against increasingly syndicated crime.”

“Together with our sister departments in the Security and Justice Cluster, we need better controls at our ports of exit, more support in the war on the ground, and faster prosecution of offenders,” Creecy said.

Paying tribute to rangers who battle poaching in the conservation areas on a daily basis, the minister stressed the need to create more support for rangers who are fighting the war on the ground.

Initiated by the International Rangers Federation in 2007, World Ranger Day, which falls on July 31, offers a chance to support the vital work of rangers working in more than 100,000 reserves, parks and protected areas around the world. The day is also an opportunity to pay tribute to rangers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Creecy said securing a future for nature is an integral part of the South African National Development Plan, which includes declaring new protected areas, sustainable land management, protection of forests and securing strategic water sources.

The first and perhaps most important approach to protecting biodiversity and wildlife associated crime in South African parks has to be the economic and social well-being of communities living adjacent to the protected areas, said the minister.

Despite the best efforts of rangers and the security agencies, wildlife crime continues to threaten South Africa’s biodiversity, she said.

“Rhino poaching, in particular, remains a critical problem in our protected areas,” Creecy said.

In the past three years, South Africa, home to about 90 percent of the world’s rhino population, has shown a measure of success in decreasing rhino poaching, not only in national parks, but also in other protected areas, including provincial and municipal game reserves, and private conservation areas, according to Creecy.

In the first six months this year, 318 rhino were poached countrywide, a modest decline of 68 incidents over the same period last year, Creecy said.

From January to June this year, 122 alleged poachers were arrested within the KNP, while nationally, 253 arrests were effected in respect of both rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking, said Creecy.

These successes have been achieved through the implementation of the 2014 Integrated Management Plan which combines the use of technology, extensive anti-poaching work, as well as the management of the rhino population, Creecy said.

“It also involves extensive international collaboration across our borders to ensure that rhino poachers are brought to book wherever they try to hide,” she said.

Many of these successes could not have happened without rangers, the minister added.