Rhino poaching a global issue: Molewa

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pretoria - Water and Environmental Minister Edna Molewa has urged the international community to join the fight against rhino poaching in order to safeguard the animals for generations to come.

“Let’s put the fight together, rhino poaching is a global issue which must be brought under control. Our message is clear, stop rhino poaching,” said Molewa on Saturday.

Hundreds of children from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West and Gauteng marched from Church Square to the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria where they handed over a memorandum to Molewa.

Saturday marked the fourth annual World Rhino Day and the aim this year is to create international awareness about the danger that rhinos face from poachers.

The theme of this year’s World Rhino Day is Five Rhino Species Forever. The international theme is clarion call that all citizens, as the custodians, of the last five remaining species of rhino in the world, ensure their future survival.

A total of 688 rhino have been killed for their horns in South Africa this year alone despite officials putting up a strong fight against poaching, while 219 poachers have been arrested.

Molewa says the demands of the young who participated in Saturday's event have been heard.

“The message is quite loud and clear and is very significant. We heard them and they are urging us to implement the six point plan, among other things, to ensure that there is funding and equipment available for fighting rhino poaching,” she said.

The Minister said the march signals the sustained commitment of the youth to the future of the country’s environmental security, and integrity. 

SANParks Chief Executive, Dr David Mabunda, said: “We hold 80 percent of the rhinos for the world; we are calling upon the whole world to support us in fighting the scourge of rhino poaching.

In South Africa, we are very pleased in terms on the progress that we’ve achieved so far, there is very little involvement of our people in rhino poaching, but the situation is quite different with our neighbouring countries particularly Mozambique and the Far East, we call upon them to be part of us. These are their rhinos and killing them does not really serve anyone’s purpose.”

Asked if they are winning the battle against rhino poaching, Mabunda said: “We are battling at this point in time, we still have an average of rhino and a half killed every day, which is not good, but I’m confident that we will turn the corner.”

Dr Mabunda said poaching makes South Africans poorer as it drains resources aimed at conservation, threatens the livelihoods of millions of people and most importantly denies humanity of a spiritual experience.

The arrests of suspected poachers for 2013 are at 219 for the country and 79 for the Kruger National Park.

In the past ten days 25 alleged poachers have been arrested countrywide, 14 of them in Limpopo. Among those arrested is one of the most wanted poachers in the Kruger National Park.

The use of rhino horn as a symbol of status among wealthy urban Vietnamese has been identified as a major driver of the current rhino poaching crisis.

“Rhino horn consumers are wealthy and powerful and as such are seen as influential people within Vietnamese society,” says Dr Jo Shaw, World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA)’s Rhino Co-ordinator. - SAnews.gov.za