Molewa wants united poaching fight

2013-03-08 22:13
(File: Volksblad)

(File: Volksblad)

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Johannesburg - The international community needs to co-operate to eliminate the scourge of poaching, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Friday.

Global dialogue was required to stop black market trading in countries where rhino horn was sold, she said in a speech prepared for delivery at the 16th Cites conference of parties in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Having demonstrated what we have done at national level, it has become clear that no country can fight this battle alone," she said.

Research showed poachers in South Africa were from outside the country.

Intelligence and law enforcement efforts needed to be shared with neighbouring and consumer states to reduce demand for rhino horn.

Since the start of the year, 146 rhino had been poached in South Africa, and 50 people arrested in connection with this.

Molewa said South Africa continued to show its willingness to work with other Southern African states by expanding rhino conservation ranges, but this needed to happen in a responsible manner.

"We always check habitat suitability and viability before we agree on any transfer of live animals, as we do not want those to be soft targets of criminal syndicates."

Analysis of the poaching syndicate value chain revealed it was complex, with ordinary people living next to reserves being recruited as poachers.

Couriers transported rhino horn to major cities, where it was prepared for export.

"The initial number of arrests indicated that we were only succeeding in catching those at the bottom of the pyramid," said Molewa.

"We are now succeeding at other levels too. This was evident with the recent case of the Thai national who was convicted and sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment for illegal trade in rhino horns."

She said that since South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana had held a Cites-controlled, once-off sale of their ivory stockpiles, no elephant had been poached in South Africa.

"We are only aware of two elephant that have died in the past decade, after being caught in snares set for... antelopes."

South Africa had made no decision about applying, at the next Cites conference, for the legalisation of trade in rhino horn, or for permission to hold a once-off sale of its rhino horn stockpiles.

Efforts to protect South Africa's rhino population were aimed not only at protecting the species from extinction, but also at securing and conserving the country's natural resources, Molewa said.

"The fact that the criminal syndicates involved in rhino poaching also undertake other crimes, means that this current situation can be considered a national security risk."

It was imperative the national response be comprehensive, as poaching threatened not only South Africa's sustainable development path, but also the heritage of future generations.

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