Picture: Michael Lorentz
DA MP Ross Purdon tabled a parliamentary motion this week calling on government departments to revisit this national rhino poaching crisis with the urgency it deserves. In the motion tabled on Monday, he says rhino poaching has reached critical levels in South Africa.

Purdon believes that increased anti-poaching efforts in the Kruger National Park (KNP) have detrimentally affected the country’s other parks. 

“Poachers will always look for soft targets. Lack of funding (Ezemvelo had a budget cut of R400 million last year) has led to low staff morale and failing infrastructure in a number of provinces,” he says.

He highlighted the fact that seven butchered rhinos were discovered in a single day last week in KwaZulu-Natal’s flagship Imfolozi Game Reserve, four rhinos have been poached on different reserves in the Eastern Cape during the last two weeks and that the Pilanesberg Game Reserve is also suffering huge loses including 31 rhinos in 2017 and 10 rhinos within the first two months of the year.

Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, referred to the progress made when it came to anti-rhino poaching efforts, noting a decrease in overall rhino poaching figures for 2017 compared to 2016, however there was an increase in the number of rhino poached in KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.

Last year also saw a decrease in rhino poaching arrests countrywide despite an increase in arrests within Kruger National Park. 

According to Purdon this is a major concern. "It indicates that the powers that be are failing in the rest of the country. It is also disturbing to note
the increase of offences stemming from the very people that are employed to curb the poaching,” he said.

Purdon also fears for the future of other species, including elephants.

“The minister briefly mentions that 67 elephants were poached in KNP in 2017 but offers no solutions. The poaching of elephants is not getting the attention it deserves. We, the DA will put pressure on the Department and SANParks, together with the Mozambique Government to address this issue with the urgency it deserves.”

Purdon believes corruption is at the heart of the problem. “To tackle rhino poaching effectively will require enormous political will. We need high profile arrests and prosecutions,” he says.

* From the Conservation Action trust. See http://conservationaction.co.za

The Independent on Saturday