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SOUth AfrICA’S

the Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, Edna Molewa, has re­leased the first 2018 progress re­port on gov­ern­ment’s in­te­grated strate­gic man­age­ment ap­proach to com­bat rhino poach­ing.

The re­port, which also cov­ers the last quar­ter of 2017, shows progress in the num­ber of ar­rests, in­ves­ti­ga­tions and suc­cess­ful con­vic­tions of rhino poach­ers and smug­glers and a mi­nor de­crease in the num­ber of rhi­nos poached na­tion­ally in 2017 (1 028), com­pared to 2016 (1 054).

In 2017 there were eight seizures of rhino horn at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port and 502 al­leged rhino poach­ers and 16 al­leged traf­fick­ers were ar­rested, bring­ing the num­ber to 518, a de­crease from 680 in 2016.

“Re­gret­tably, 21 of­fi­cials from our own per­son­nel were ar­rested for poach­ing-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in 2017,” Min­is­ter Molewa said.

Curb­ing poach­ing

Gov­ern­ment and its part­ners have in­sti­tuted var­i­ous mea­sures to curb rhino poach­ing, in­clud­ing pa­trol pro­grammes at na­tional parks and util­is­ing game-chang­ing tech­nol­ogy. Be­tween Jan­uary and De­cem­ber 2017, 504 rhi­nos were poached at the Kruger Na­tional Park (KNP), which is 24 per­cent less than the 662 in 2016.

“As a re­sult of our anti-poach­ing strat­egy in the KNP we are see­ing a de­crease in the num­ber of poacher ac­tiv­i­ties in the park, with 2 662 recorded in 2017 com­pared to 2 883 in 2016. This rep­re­sents a per­cent­age de­crease of 7.6 per­cent,” the Min­is­ter con­firmed.

How­ever, the num­ber of rhi­nos poached in KwaZulu-Na­tal, the North­ern Cape, Mpumalanga, the Free State and the North West has in­creased.

Ef­fect on the econ­omy

Rhino poach­ing and wildlife traf­fick­ing neg­a­tively im­pact the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try and job cre­ation, in­clud­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try’s bio­di­verse econ­omy which in­cor­po­rates the tourism sec­tor.

“The loss of one of South Africa’s iconic wildlife species such as the rhino, which is one of the ‘Big Five’ can have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the num­ber of tourists vis­it­ing South Africa. Many tourists visit South Africa to come and see the Big Five, which are rhino, lion, buf­falo, leopard and ele­phant,” the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs said in a state­ment.

Rhino poach­ing has been recog­nised as a se­cu­rity risk to the coun­try, which may im­pact the num­ber of tourists vis­it­ing the coun­try, and gov­ern­ment has de­clared it as a na­tional pri­or­ity crime.

The il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties as­so­ci­ated with rhino poach­ing and the traf­fick­ing of rhino horn only ben­e­fit a rel­a­tively small crim­i­nal fra­ter­nity.

“These crim­i­nal net­works take ad­van­tage of the com­plex­ity of this type of crime. While the syn­di­cates reap the ben­e­fits, gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to en­sure so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is ham­pered be­cause or­gan­ised crime syn­di­cates and ac­tiv­i­ties be­come more em­bed­ded in com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try,” the de­part­ment con­firmed.

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