Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Parliament - One of the Free State's natural jewels, the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, has not proved immune to the poaching pestilence that has swept South African game reserves.

Blesbok, eland, hartebeest, wildebeest and zebra are among the animals that have been targeted in the 11 600 hectare mountain park over the past three years, according to Environment Minister Edna Molewa.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, she said 15 of the poaching incidents in the park were “farm-related”, perpetrated by local farmers. Measures were in place to counter this threat.

“Rangers are deployed strategically in outposts within the park to conduct daily patrols and to facilitate a rapid reaction capability.”

Concerted efforts were also being made to “communicate and build networks within the farming community to ensure timeous exchange of relevant information, to implement both pro-active and re-active operations”, Molewa said.

The 50-year-old park, which is managed by SA National Parks, derives its name from the rich colours of its sunlit sandstone cliffs.