Ismail Obaray, MPL
DA Provincial Spokesperson of Environment & Conservation
The DA is both saddened and outraged by the slaying of a Northern Cape rhino in McCarthy’s Rest on Sunday last week. This comes three months after a rhino was poached in the Griekwastad area, bringing the total number of rhinos killed in the province, since the beginning of the year, to at least two.
It is deeply disturbing that our once relatively safe province, earmarked to become the new safe haven for 250 rhinos from the Kruger Park, is increasingly falling prey to ruthless rhino poachers.
The DA previously warned that the intended mass relocation of rhinos to the province called for a targeted approach towards their safety. We proposed that this include the establishment of a task team, made up of all relevant law enforcement organisations, as well as public and private stakeholders, to ensure that sufficient measures are in place to protect our rhino population. Our call was not heeded and now, before Kruger Park rhinos have even arrived in our province, poachers are zooming in on the Northern Cape as their new hunting turf. This is very concerning and requires drastic action to prevent the province from becoming the new rhino slaughter fields.
In addition to the establishment of a dedicated rhino task team, the DA also suggests that urgent action be taken to scale up security at our border posts with both Namibia and Botswana. This is in light of the well known fact that smuggling routes, set up around the McCarthy’s Rest border post (about 200km north of Kuruman) have been used to supply live animals to captive breeding facilities in South Africa, which sell lion bones as a substitute for tiger bones in traditional Asian potions. The Achille’s heal at our border posts could thus be taken advantage of by rhino poachers and must be urgently addressed.
In this regard, the DA proposes that a significant amount of additional funding be diverted to the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Conservation when the adjustment appropriation bill is tabled later this year. This is because the weaknesses at our border posts are aggravated by a dire shortage of compliance and enforcement officers due to severe budgetary constraints. In fact, the current number of compliance and enforcement officers is not nearly enough to deal with regular environmental policing, let alone to take up permanent posts at our borders.
The DA will continue to probe the level of commitment by provincial government towards our rhino population. We have submitted parliamentary questions to ascertain whether our very own cross-border parks, such as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, have cross-border hot-pursuit agreements with Namibia and Botswana, and hope to receive a reply from the department soon.