COUNTRIES OF SOUTHERN AFRICA BEEF UP CAPABILITIES TO TACKLE ESCALATING THREAT TO WILDLIFE

SKUKUZA, SOUTH AFRICA– In an effort to address wildlife trafficking, governments in southern Africa have diversified and expanded their capabilities to meet the escalating threat, says South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.

Addressing the 4th Multi-Lateral Meeting of the Defence and Security Chiefs on Anti-Poaching at the Protea Marriott Kruger Gate Hotel at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park on Wednesday, she said countries in the sub-region had adopted the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Law Enforcement and Anti-poaching Strategy (LEAP Strategy).

The illegal killing and trafficking of our wildlife undermines our investments in the protection and conservation of our natural heritage. It is for this reason we, as Southern African countries, have, after much deliberation, adopted the LEAP Strategy, which now needs to be implemented, she said.

She added that the strategy would boost efforts to combat poaching and trafficking in wildlife by introducing a common approach to combat illicit transnational trade in wildlife.

It has been almost a decade since rhino poaching started intensifying and increasing in the sub-region. Through our efforts to combat the scourge, we have learnt lessons and have developed best practices that we can share with each other, she said.

Molewa said as rhino poaching escalated, South Africa had to adapt and enter into a number of collaborative agreements to ensure wildlife is protected and properly managed.

The South African government, at a Cabinet level, approved an Integrated Strategic Management Approach for the protection and management of rhino in the country. This approach is implemented through a joint collaboration within the Security Cluster comprising the Ministries of Defence and Military Veterans (Chair), Justice and Correctional Services, Police, Environmental Affairs as well as state owned entities, such as the State Security Agency, South African Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority, South African National Parks (SANParks) and the provincial conservation and security authorities, she said.

The Integrated Approach comprises specific interventions aimed at increasing rhino numbers by expanding the range, which also involves sharing animals with other range countries as well as strengthening law enforcement and anti-poaching capabilities.

Other objectives include working with communities adjacent to national and provincial parks and broader awareness programmes. These have delivered a number of significantly satisfying results most significantly, an established downward trend in the number of rhino poached in South Africa since 2016. It is an approach that is now being utilised to curb elephant poaching in the Kruger National Park, Molewa said.

The anti-poaching meeting was first held in Botswana in 2014, with subsequent meetings held in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Defence and service chiefs of the defence forces of Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as officials in the departments of Police, Justice, Environmental Affairs and Intelligence are attending the three-day meeting.

Part of the agenda for this fourth meeting in South Africa is for the countries to deliberate on legal issues pertaining to the fight against poaching.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK