KwaZulu-Natal - MECs responsible for environment portfolios in the provinces have called for an integrated anti-poaching strategy to halt the growing number of rhinos being killed by poachers.
Since January this year, a total of 84 rhinos have been killed in the country by poachers, including 33 being killed at the Kruger National Park, 19 at Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, 16 in Mpumalanga, seven in Limpopo, five in North West, three in Gauteng and one in the Eastern Cape.
Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica, Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi and MECs responsible for environment portfolios in provinces held a meeting on Tuesday to give their support to efforts by various conservation authorities to stop poachers in their tracks.
During the two-day meeting, Sonjica and the MECs expressed their political support to provincial authorities, but also called for an integrated anti-rhino poaching strategy incorporating all rhino range provinces and the Department of Environmental Affairs.
It was agreed that the South African National Parks (SANParks) will lead an inter-provincial agencies' team, which will be aimed at co-ordinating efforts by all the affected parties.
The department has also established a multi-party national biodiversity investigators' forum as a platform for discussion and the sharing of information on biodiversity related law enforcement issues, including rhino poaching.
Sonjica said the department intends to strengthen its national biodiversity enforcement capacity and will among other things formally strengthen coordination on biodiversity enforcement issues on a national basis.
"This will include the establishment of a Special Investigations Unit to deal with high profile and organized environmental conservation crime and enhance compliance with the applicable national environmental legislation," Sonjica said.
Since the beginning of the year a total of 22 poachers, mostly foreign nationals have been arrested by both the SANParks and the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife joint operations.