Plans to curb poach­ing in place

MEC Sihle Zikalala says the num­ber of rhino killed has reached 172 and al­leges that syn­di­cates are be­hind the killings

The New Age (Western Cape) - - Kwazulu-natal News - SIBONGISENI MAPHUMULO prov­inces@the­newage.co.za

PLANS to curb rhino poach­ing in the prov­ince are well in place, the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, tourism and en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs department said.

It said it was tak­ing the fight to crime syn­di­cates mostly from Gaut­eng and Mpumalanga.

At a joint press brief­ing with Ezemvelo Wildlife held at the Spi­oenkop Na­ture Re­serve, MEC Sihle Zikalala, said the num­ber of rhino killed in the prov­ince had reached 172.

Al­leg­ing that syn­di­cates were be­hind the grue­some killings, Zikalala said plans to pre­vent fur­ther mas­sacres of the rhino would in­volve tar­get­ing the syn­di­cates by tak­ing the fight to them.

“We have put in place a num­ber of in­ter­ven­tions geared to­wards proac­tively mak­ing it more oner­ous on poach­ers and syn­di­cates to prey on these beasts,” Zikalala said.

“This in­cludes, but is not lim­ited to, the de-horn­ing of small pop­u­la­tions of rhino and tak­ing im­me­di­ate ac­tion against any staff mem­ber who is sus­pected of be­ing in­volved in poach­ing syn­di­cates, or has been found guilty with im­me­di­ate dis­missal and crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion. A com­mand con­trol cen­tre, whose func­tion is to man­age the de­ploy­ment of se­cu­rity per­son­nel and in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment, has also been es­tab­lished in Hluh­luwe-iM­folozi Park.”

Ezemvelo also strength­ened its own in­ter­nal con­trols to en­sure that none of its staff mem­bers col­luded with poach­ers.

The department said the bol­ster­ing of se­cu­rity at rhino re­serves should act as a de­ter­rent for other would be poach­ers.

Zikalala said the high num­ber of poached rhi­nos was a huge con­cern for the prov­ince. “While the num­ber of 172 rhi­nos killed this year is high, we re­alise that it could have been much higher had it not been for com­mu­ni­ties re­sid­ing in the vicin­ity of our wildlife parks, who alert us to sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity,” Zikalala said.

Even as he de­cried the num­ber of rhi­nos that had al­ready been killed this year, the MEC was nonethe­less full of praise for com­mu­ni­ties re­sid­ing in the vicin­ity of game re­serves, who blew the whis­tle on poach­ers.

In this re­gard, Zikalala said, co­man­age­ment agree­ments had been signed with com­mu­ni­ties in ar­eas such as Ndumo, Tembe, Okhukho, Hlabisa and Mpukun­y­oni.

“Ezemvelo has strength­ened its man­power by re­cruit­ing an ad­di­tional 18 se­cu­rity per­son­nel, who will be de­ployed in 10 rhino re­serves.

“The prov­ince had also part­nered with the department of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs at na­tional level to ap­point 412 en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tors that had been dis­patched to 23 Ezemvelo Pro­tected Ar­eas,” Zikalala said.

These have re­sulted in the strength­en­ing of part­ner­ships be­tween Ezemvelo and com­mu­ni­ties.

PIC­TURE: ISTOCK

HORNS OF DE­SPAIR: MEC Sihle Zikalala says plans to pre­vent fur­ther mas­sacres of the rhino must tar­get crime syn­di­cates.

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