KZN must become a “no-go” province for poachers

Radley Keys, MPP 

DA KZN Spokesperson on Conservation and Environmental Affairs

Our conservation environment is under serious threat with one of Africa’s unique symbols and a cherished member of our heritage is in danger of extinction. The rhino, uBhejane wethu, will be extinct in 15 years at the rate poaching is decimating its population.

It is imperative that we focus all our available resources to preserve what is truly African and unique to our continent. R27 million was given to Ezemvelo to counter the poaching endemic. The first R2 million went towards TV slots for the MEC with no noticeable effect in the reduction of the slaughter.  The next R7.2 million has been allocated to employing so called “rhino ambassadors” in 2013 to educate our communities on the preservation of the rhino with a further R7.2 million in the 2014 financial year. We have also heard that a helicopter has been purchased for an undisclosed amount, but at the going prices this would cost at least R2 million for this financial year to keep it in the air, excluding the purchase price. A further R2 million will be needed next year. Further spending is set to take place in erecting sign boards to protect our rhinos, also at an undisclosed amount.

This leaves approximately R3 million for each of the two financial years to wage war on the poaching syndicates.

To date the portfolio committee has not been favoured with a breakdown of the use or allocation of the R27 million, but the breakdown above is based on information gleaned.

The glaring ineptitude in the use of these funds rests on an assessment that fails to identify where the threat emanates from, who is behind the mass destruction of our rhino’s, the weaknesses of government departments responsible for the preservation of endangered species, the market from where the demand is driven and the required response.

May I venture the following as a possible counter to the massacre of our rhinos.  The threat emanates primarily from across our borders, specifically Mozambique, not our own people. We need to plug that porous border and stop the free access into South Africa of criminal syndicates, intent on poaching one of South Africa’s treasured jewels.

The people and organisations behind the mass destruction are syndicates from the east – Thailand, Vietnam, China, etc and some hunting fraternities in the USA. They are making their billions at the cost of the rhino with no concern for their extinction.

Government departments commissioned to prevent and stop illegal trade in rhino horn have been seriously compromised by officials who are being bought and allow horns to leave South Africa. We need to tighten up on these departments and clear them of co-conspirators in rhino horn trade. Unfortunately some of our own rangers have been bought over by the promise of financial reward thereby becoming double agents against South Africa.

The demand must be plugged and we have a start in a bilateral agreement between SA and Vietnam. This must extend to China, Thailand, USA and other countries where demand is high, and these agreements must have teeth to implement agreements.

The challenge is never ending.  Instead of paying rhino ambassadors, we need to train and equip our ground forces in the war to be better prepared than the poachers to ensure they are eliminated. We cannot afford to mouth our disgust and erect bill boards.  We must make our province a no-go area for poachers and their collaborators by arming our rangers and offering substantial rewards for the successful prosecution of these inferior, debased and obnoxious sub human beings.

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