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More patrols, intercepting illegal shipments of rhino horn, arrest poachers key to curbing rhino poaching

By March 12, 2023March 15th, 2023Wildlife Crime

Rhino, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Wikimedia Commons.

By Thobeka Ngema, IOL | March 10, 2023

Durban — The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) has indicated that partnerships were key to protecting the rhino population.

EDTEA MEC Siboniso Duma recently had a meeting with the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), Barbara Creecy to discuss an array of issues and solutions at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP).

The department said that as the rampant poaching of rhinos continues to threaten the very existence of this species, EDTEA has demonstrated its commitment to protecting the rhino population through concerted efforts and partnerships that have resulted in species conservation over the years.

Last month, DFFE released the annual rhino poaching statistics which revealed increased poaching activity in KZN with half of the 448 rhinos poached in the past year being from KZN.

It said that it is concerning that rhino poaching continues at this scale.

“We must all appreciate the importance of conservation and its value to our tourism sector – a major job creator. As the government, we declare war on rhino poachers who are stealing our precious assets. It is, indeed, our collective responsibility to fight rhino poachers,” Duma said.

“We thank our personnel at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife who, together with law enforcement agencies and conservationists, work tirelessly under dangerous conditions to protect our wildlife. We also commend communities for working with us to protect our rhino population.”

The department said that the meeting outlined a multi-faceted approach that will curb rhino poaching. The implementation of technology and tracking devices was discussed as a key method to detect and monitor poachers through early detection, trap cameras, and Operations Control Centres.

It said that law enforcement agencies will work tirelessly to prevent poaching by increasing patrols in high-risk areas, intercepting illegal shipments of rhino horn, and arresting those who participate in poaching. To this effect, the SAPS Special Task Force and Tactical Operations Teams have been deployed at HiP.

It also said that Ezemvelo’s Technical Services unit, together with the HiP management, conducted a physical assessment of the perimeter fence on the south-western boundary of the park, an estimated total of 38.2km. The estimated cost for fixing the south-western boundary fence was estimated at R9.5 million. This cost was based on an estimate of R247 000 per kilometre. All procurement processes have been completed. The contractor was awarded on February 24, 2023.

The department added that the province is exploring rhino dehorning as an effective measure. Rhino dehorning has been used historically as a tool to reduce the threat of poaching in parts of southern Africa. It ought to be undertaken together with other elements to really be effective (perimeter fencing; appropriate field ranger resourcing, multi-pronged law enforcement effort (SAPS, crime intelligence, secret service, NPA, investigation) staff vetting, community work, etc.

Meanwhile, Creecy and Duma are in northern KZN to conduct a two-day site visit at HiP and iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Together they will inspect parts of HiP with respect to the boundary fence to keep wild animals from escaping the park into the nearby communities.

The department said that Creecy and Duma will also visit the park’s Rhino Poaching Nerve Centre.

Creecy will then head to St Lucia to visit the community farms in the iSimangaliso area that have been affected by recent flooding, look at several community projects and receive and engage with stakeholders around an array of issues within iSimangaliso.

Read the original story here.