Lam Tak-fai, acting head of Ports and Maritime Command, arranges rhino horns, part of a 33 rhino horns, ivory chopsticks and bracelets shipment seized by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, during a news conference in Hong Kong November 15, 2011. Hong Kong Customs seized on Tuesday a total of 33 rhino horns, 758 ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets, worth about HK$17.4 million ($2.23 million), inside a container shipped from Cape Town, South Africa, according the a customs press release. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA - Tags: CRIME LAW BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT ANIMALS)

South African anti-poaching efforts are set to be bolstered by $3 million (R25m), the governing council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has announced.

The project was developed in co-operation with the Department of Environmental Affairs, the UN Environment Programme, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).

It aims to reduce poaching of rhinos and the illegal international trade in their horns by strengthening enforcement capacity in southern Africa through forensic-based technologies, GEF said.

GEF CEO and chairwoman, Monique Barbut, said: “The poaching of endangered species is a serious threat to the world’s biodiversity and it warrants the deployment of all methods at our disposal: better engagement with local communities, improved management of protected areas, and the latest anti-poaching technology to catch those responsible.”

The objective of the project is to strengthen law enforcement capacity in South Africa’s protected game reserves through forensic-based technologies focused on the rhinoceros, she said.

Barbut said special sample collection kits and data forms had been developed and distributed to game parks.

She said conservation officers and enforcement authorities had been trained in DNA collection techniques to ensure that the chain of evidence was maintained and that information collected could be used against poachers in court.

The GEF funding would be used for a dedicated forensic laboratory facility to provide timely DNA analysis of forensic evidence for the prosecution of wildlife crimes.

The funding would also be used to enhance existing co-ordination and information sharing among all those involved in the law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts in the country and the region.

“The scientists in this field use methods that are similar to those used in crimes involving human victims,” Barbut said.

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime was expected to support South Africa in the implementation of this project.

It comprises the Cites Secretariat, Interpol, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organisation.

Cites secretary-general John Scanlon said: “This project responds to the immediate threat posed to the survival of rhinos in South Africa through poaching and smuggling, which is often carried out by organised criminal gangs.

“Without swift action to reverse current trends, rhinos could be driven to extinction.”

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman Musa Mntambo said they welcomed the support

“We will be guided by the implementing agency appointed by the department as to the conditions attached to these funds.” - Daily News