Durban – When Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy delivered her budget vote for 2022/23 to the National Assembly on Wednesday she did not leave out the conservation of rhinos.
Creecy said that a year ago she released the High-Level Panel Report which reviewed policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
“South Africa also needs a species recovery plan for white rhino which considers the poaching crisis, and the potential we have to breed white rhino in controlled environments for conservation purposes, in support of conserving rhino in extensive wildlife systems,” Creecy said.
“I believe that such a plan can be developed in partnership with private rhino owners, giving effect to the panel recommendations in a voluntary win-win scenario. I have requested SANParks to lead the development of such a recovery plan as a key element of their work in this financial year.”
She said Parliament approved an amendment to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, which will enable the development of legislation at the national level relating to the well-being of wildlife.
Moreover, they were in the process of establishing a wildlife welfare forum that will promote biodiversity conservation and the ecologically sustainable, responsible and humane use and management of wildlife.
On the poaching front, Creecy said addressing the poaching of South Africa’s wildlife and plant species had been prioritised by the government with provinces and sectors hard hit by these crimes receiving extensive support from the department.
She said that in early February they reflected on the rhino poaching statistics for 2021, and while they acknowledged the steady decline in rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park, poaching pressure had shifted across the country and KwaZulu-Natal has become a key target area for criminal syndicates.
“As a result of the alarming rate of poaching in that province, key departmental resources have been deployed to actively support Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and the SAPS. This includes assistance to intelligence gathering and joint investigations, support to law enforcement officials and Joint Operations managers, including the nerve centre in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park which is part of the Integrated Wildlife Zones,” Creecy explained.
“With regard to the work being done by the priority committee under Initiative 5 of Operation Phakisa, a key concern remains the fact that the high demand and high prices paid for abalone continue to lure individuals in South Africa into the illicit trade.”
At the weekend, KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs MEC Ravi Pillay said: “A total of 93 rhinos were poached in KwaZulu-Natal parks in 2020, and 102 were poached last year. Since January this year, 106 rhinos have been poached, indicating a syndicated operation and severe level of brazenness.”
Pillay said that although the security forces were responding and an increased number of rangers had been deployed, they were mindful that it was only provincial, national and international co-ordinated responses that would have a long-term effect.
Creecy added that a similar concern was the continued illegal removal of West Coast rock lobster from the oceans. Thus the department continued to focus its enforcement efforts on countering these illegal activities.
“In order to refocus our effort around the management of the abalone resource and how best to prevent and combat the illicit trade, the department together with a broad range of stakeholders will be developing an inclusive and holistic strategic response and action plan for the prevention and combating of trade in illegally harvested abalone,” Creecy said.