By Ann McDonnell, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Conservation:
AS we mark World Rhino Day – a day designed to curb the scourge of poaching – it is appropriate to reassess the situation here in KZN.
Our province was home to one of the greatest conservationists of our time – Dr Ian Player – whose initiatives brought the white rhino back from the brink of extinction.
Yet today we face a similar crisis not helped by a national policy which dictates that poaching stats are only released “quarterly or so” because, according to National Minister Edna Molewa, “her staff cannot spend all their time on rhino poaching”.
This ‘ostrich’ mentality did not help reduce crime – why should it help control rhino poaching?
In spite of the limited information available, it is obvious that we are facing a very big problem. According to current figures, by 2018 the number of rhino poached in KZN will equal the number being born.
At one point it was hoped that private game farm owners would assist in harbouring rhino. Unfortunately this hope was dashed due to massive security costs and the huge losses when these animals are killed. Sadly the number of privately owned poached animals trebled in 2014.
There can be no doubt that our province and our country as a whole is facing a huge challenge in saving these magnificent creatures.
There are a few positives from this gloomy picture though. One is the amazing partnerships formed in response to the threat of international syndicates killing off our heritage, for their own gain, in many cases sacrificing our people as their foot soldiers.
Other positives include young ambassadors visiting targeted countries, funded air reconnaissance and a strong will by our environmental institutions and practitioners to protect our wildlife.
We face many challenges. With borders that are many kilometres long, and so porous, it is easy for criminals to hide out in neighbouring countries and cross into parks.
But we must never give up our fight. The battle is worth it!