Cape Town - 22 September is World Rhino Day, as the Minister of Environmental Affairs thanks South Africans for their fight to protect our rhinos.
According to SANParks, the total number of poached rhinos in Kruger National Park for this year stands at 243 rhinos killed, however 90 suspected poachers were arrested throughout the year by Kruger officials.
In a statement, minister Dr Edna Molewa thanked all government departments, law enforcement agencies, civil society and all South Africans for their commitment to conserve one of the world’s most iconic species, the rhino.
“Whilst it is important to acknowledge the efforts of government departments and agencies in implementing the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros approach, at the same time we must recognize the efforts of our communities, the NGO community, business, and all ordinary South Africans who are doing their part,” said Minister Molewa.
The day marks the issue rhino poaching and the impact it has on the world. The theme of this year’s World Rhino Day is Five Rhino Species Forever; in reference to the five species of rhino, namely the Black rhino, White rhino, Greater one-horned rhino, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
“As home to the largest population of rhino in the world, South Africa continues to have a proud record for species conservation, despite the grim impact of the illicit transnational wildlife trade on our rhino, we continue to register successes in bringing poaching numbers down,” said Molewa.
South Africa brought the rhino back from the brink of extinction in the 1960’s and today has an estimated 20 000 black and white rhino.
This is thanks to the collaborative conservation efforts of government departments and agencies, private rhino owners, NGO’s and most importantly, the efforts of communities living adjacent to national parks as well as state and privately-owned conservation areas.
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Significant progress has been made with regards to the implementation of the interventions, such as a slow but steady decline in rhino poaching numbers.
Bringing local communities into the mainstream of conservation is central to government’s anti-poaching strategy. To this end, World Rhino Day serves as an opportunity to build and instill a culture of responsible citizenship amongst communities living adjacent to conservation areas.
It is communities who suffer the most from the increased insecurity that results when there is poaching-related activity in the vicinity in which they live.
“Wildlife tourism is the mainstay of our country’s economy; rhino poaching negatively impacts our reputation as a tourism destination, which in turn impacts the ability of the tourism sector to generate jobs and sustainable livelihoods, especially for communities in rural areas where most of our parks are located,” said Dr. Molewa.
In Kenya, their rhino numbers have dwindled drastically over the years and now they have to be protected 24/7 by heavily armed rangers, like Clifford Naimodu. He told Beautiful news how much he cherishes rhinos, especially his one special friend Koffi. He works in the Maasai Mara wildlife conservancy near Nairobi, where rangers are often killed in combat with poachers.
Closer to home, the supporters of rhinos get even younger. In another Beautiful News story, we meet Hunter Mitchell, a ten-year-old boy who first got involved with rhino conservation when he saw photos of a baby orphaned rhino, and decided to start raising money for it. So far he's R100 000 for rhino conservation, and doesn't plan to end his efforts soon.
SANParks Chief Executive Officer Fundisile Mketeni also highlighted the World Rhino Day as one of the most significant days in our calendar. He maintains that it is never too late to fight against the illicit poaching of our country’s natural heritage.
Mketeni has called on the law enforcement agencies, communities, neighboring countries and all other stakeholders to join hands in the fight to stop the pillaging of these pre-historic animals that are an important part of our ecosystem. “Our rangers are doing their best inside the park but we need to replicate their efforts outside our parks to disrupt criminal activities. The scourge can be defeated if we all pull together “said Mketeni.
“We all need to defend our heritage with everything we have and stand together to stop the killing”.
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