THE FIGHT AGAINST RHINO POACHING IN KZN NEEDS TO BE MADE A PRIORITY
Hardly a day goes by without us hearing or reading about rhinos being killed by poachers for their horns. This slaughter, which is continuing unabated, will lead to the extinction of rhinos in our lifetime. The massive national death toll of rhinos as well as the killing of 9 rhinos on the weekend of World Rhino Day are huge concerns and call for the fight against rhino poaching to be a priority in KwaZulu-Natal. Poachers are invading our protected areas and destroying our natural wildlife heritage. KwaZulu-Natal is currently the province with the second highest number of poaching related deaths in the country. The statistics released by the Department of Environmental Affairs reveal that 38 rhinos were killed in 2010, 34 in 2011 and 47 so far in 2012. To make matters worse, KwaZulu-Natal lags behind in the number of poacher arrests this year – only 10 arrests have been made whereas Mpumalanga made 56 and the Kruger National Park 34.
The SMS campaign aiming to end rhino poaching together with other awareness campaigns are not adequate to curb rhino poaching. More needs to be done to crack down on rhino poachers. The police can no longer budge on rhino poaching and rhino related killings need to become high profile investigations because it is apparent that there are multiple poaching syndicates operating within the province. The SAPS needs to undertake full scale investigations so that if corrupt officials within game parks exist, they can be identified and prosecuted. Ezemvelo needs to increase helicopter patrols and the number of field rangers undertaking foot patrols. Ezemvelo also needs to mobilise stakeholders in order to win the the war against rhino poaching.
One wildlife expert asserted that if poaching increases at the same rate as it has over the past two years, the species could go into decline from 2016 and become extinct in the wild by 2050. We urgently need to find innovative ways of combating poaching. We are the custodians of our wildlife and we must protect them. It would be more than tragic if rhinos became extinct on our watch.
The IFP is calling for mobilisation from provincial government on the whole rhino poaching dilemma. We are very concerned about this endangered species; soon we will be out of rhinos if nothing is done. I will personally raise this matter with our provincial speaker, Ms Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni. There must be a debate on the issue in order to get a view from all political heads and provincial executives on what the course of action is to prevent the extinction of this species. If financial constraints are constantly the cause of poor security for rhinos maybe it is time that Ezemvelo’s budget be increased. This is a national crisis and we cannot just sit back and wait for the unknown – the sooner we tackle this issue the better. We need to exercise all possible solutions available and explore any other ventures that could assist us in fighting rhino poaching.
Honourable Henry L. Combrinck
Shadow MEC for Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs
239 Langalibalele Street
078 30 20 823