Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa joined by Security Cluster Ministers highlights progress in the fight against rhino poaching
Thank you for joining us here today for the report-back on the Integrated Strategic Management Approach to fight rhino poaching.
This is the second report-back we are having for 2016, and forms part of our regular briefings to the nation on our progress in addressing rhino poaching.
We are here as a collective in recognition of the seriousness of the issue we are dealing with, which necessitates a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral intervention involving various sectors, that includes the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), who are providing invaluable support to us in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
I am joined by my colleagues:
Firstly we are joined from Cape Town via video link is the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans: Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula who is Chair of the Security Cluster.
We also have with us:
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services: Advocate Michael Masutha
The national head of the DPCI, Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza (representing the South African Police Service) Leaders from SSA, SANParks and SARS
As I have said, this is the second such briefing for this year and evidence of our commitment to keep our citizens and indeed the citizens of the world abreast of South Africa’s efforts.
Before we commence we want to acknowledge two recent incidents in the Kruger National Park wherein SANParks ranger Enos Mabila was killed and SANParks ranger Killers Ubisi was wounded in the line of duty.
It is always sad to hear of such incidents. They are a stark reminder of the severity of the threat we are facing. They are only the latest of such incidents involving rangers, police and defence force members over the years.
Today we remember the life that was lost, and we acknowledge the contribution being made by each and every one of our brave men and women on the frontline, day after day, to protect our rhino.
We will today be highlighting the work that has been done in ensuring the Integrated Strategic Management Approach that was adopted by Cabinet in August 2014 is a success.
It’s key pillars are:
Managing rhino populations,
Long-term sustainability interventions,
New interventions (all these within the context of National and International cooperation)
Since we last reported to you on 21st of January 2016, the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management Approach of Rhinoceros has enabled us to progress from stabilisation to a downward trend in the number of rhinos poached.
1. 1 Arrests
Ladies and Gentlemen, our rhino continue to face a daily threat. We have responded accordingly and stepped up our efforts to apprehend suspected poachers. Since the 1st of January 2016 a total of 206 alleged poachers have been arrested in South Africa.
These successes are the result of the improved collaboration within the Security Cluster, as well as working with communities and non-governmental organisations.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) with their focus on dismantling complex organised crime enterprises remain committed to addressing the national and transnational wildlife trafficking threat through an integrated approach to prevent, combat and investigate wildlife trafficking.
The Hawks currently have 6 projects under investigation; 4 cases on the court roll and 11 major investigations underway in relation to rhino matters.
In relation to some of the major cases on the court roll, progress is as follows:
State v Groenewald and 11 others (Project Umvelo)
Racketeering: 1840 Charges: Next High Court date: 28 June 2016
State v Ras and 10 others (Project Wolverine)
Racketeering: 318 Charges: The case has been set down for trial from 27 July 2016 to 15 December 2016
State v Big Joe Nyalunga and 9 others (Project Gunston)
Racketeering: 73 Charges: The trial continues on 6 and 7 July 2016
State v Sithole and 21 others (Project Ringleader)
Final charge sheet to be formulated: Next court date: 01 June 2016
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) is working closely with various partners in the prevention, combating and investigation of wildlife trafficking. In this regard prosecution led investigations help maximise conviction rates.
The Detective Stock Theft Units are at the forefront as they are the first and second responders in the combating of wildlife crime.
For this reason a working conference between these two investigation capacities will be held during this year. The conference will enable the two investigation capacities to open dialogue, share information, transfer skills and coordinate all effort to effectively prevent, combat and investigate wildlife trafficking.
It will enable the two investigation capacities to have a better understanding of the Draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) in South Africa.
The conference will also introduce other partners and departments by means of the programme layout and presentations to capacitate, develop and promote the focus of the conference.
The DPCI have also extended their trans-national approach and combating efforts to the regional and international law enforcement arena. This will set a platform to address wildlife trafficking, combined combating efforts, training opportunities and technology development.
The Hawks are thus able to strengthen their priority actions at a national level, as well as harness the support of international partners for those priorities that involve transnational syndicates.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in terms of rhino prosecutions between April 2015 and March 2016 there were 49 finalised cases involving 103 accused. A total of 80 of these accused were convicted, resulting in a conviction rate of 78 percent.
We would like to highlight two noteworthy cases in this regard.
In the Makhado Magistrate’s Court in January, six men were found guilty of poaching a rhino on a farm adjacent to the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo in July 2014. Five of the accused were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment whilst another was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
This investigation followed a trail from the Alldays area to KwaMahlanga and Mookgopong and back to the scene of the crime.
Another successful prosecution was in the Mokopane Magistrates Court in Limpopo where four men were convicted and sentenced for the poaching of two rhino in the Naboomspruit area in 2013. The poachers– all Mozambican nationals -- were arrested in Naboomspruit and Soshanguve.
The men were sentenced and will serve effective prison terms of between 14 and 20 years after being convicted on charges including the illegal hunting of rhino, illegal possession of a prohibited firearm, and the use and possession of the proceeds of crime.
This particular case was finalised on the 9th of February 2016.
1. 2. Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ)
The Intensive Protection Zone concept, which remains an important pillar for the protection of the high density rhino population in the South of the KNP, is being expanded to other national parks, provinces and private reserves.
1.3 Pro-active anti-poaching measures and the use of technology
There is a saying that technology makes things possible, but only people can make things happen.
To demonstrate this point our combined forces are able to be more proactive owing to the constant sharing of information, by vigilant and involved citizens and visitors.
A big part of the current results are due to the implementation and utilisation of technologies in the fields of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) night vision equipment, early warning and detection, as well as tracking.
We appreciate the contribution by SARS, SANParks and the SAPS, in enhancing the K9 capabilities within the Kruger National Park, which is proving to be a formidable threat to the poachers.
In our quest for even better results, we continue to pursue new and appropriate technologies, and pioneering work is done in this regard.
1.4 Ports of Entry and Exit
Since we last briefed you in January 2016, we have increased our detection capacity at the ports by training another 712 multi-disciplinary border officials, in addition to the 1 047 trained last year. This brings the number of officials that have received training from the Environmental Management Inspectorate (Green Scorpions) on the Illicit International Cross Border Movement of Endangered Species to 1 759 in a space of less than eight months.
In our January report-back, we indicated that there was an increase in poaching activities in the Kruger National Park.
In comparison to the first four months of last year when 808 incursions took place, the number of poaching activities now stands at a staggering 1 038 (28%) in the Kruger National Park alone.
This increase translates to an average of 9 incursions per day, as compared to 7 incursions per day in the same period last year.
Despite this harsh reality, the number of carcasses (poached rhino) in the Kruger National Park for the same period has decreased from 302 to 232 – a decrease of 23 percent brought about by the combined effort of all parties involved.
On a national level we are also able to claim marginal success. In the first four months of 2016, 363 rhino were poached countrywide. During the same period last year, that national figure was 404.
It is clear that had it not been for the joint efforts of our people, the number of carcasses would be significantly higher.
Our efforts in all provinces has to be equally effective to ensure national success. We will roll out lessons learnt from capabilities applied in national, provincial and private reserves, that led to this stabilisation, to the rest of the country.
We are not claiming victory, but we are claiming success that accounts for the downward trend.
Concurrent with our counter rhino poaching measures, the emerging threat of elephant poaching is receiving due attention, and internally plans are being adapted to deal with this threat in the Kruger National Park.
2. Managing rhino populations
I will turn now to managing rhino populations.
Translocation has been an effective tool in enhancing the safety and population management of rhino in the country. As indicated in January, our translocation programme continued in March 2016. Rhinos are being translocated to well-selected locations that meet strict suitability criteria.
An evaluation of internal translocations in the Park, supported by the Peace Parks Foundation, has highlighted important lessons that are going to be used to plan future translocations.
Through the Rhino Protection Programme, being implemented with the Peace Parks Foundation, we continue to provide crucial support to the rescue, care and rehabilitation of rhino orphans.
There are currently 20 orphans under the care of Kruger National Park, with 10 being cared for by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The reintroduction of these young rhinos is vital to re-establishing the rhino populations affected by poaching.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) continued poaching in Africa has impacted on rhino numbers across the continent.
The Group states that population numbers of white rhino found on the continent appear to have stabilised. This indicates that collective action is required continentally.
To this end, the African Rhino Conservation Action Plan developed by the African Rhino Range States is aimed at securing viable, growing and valued rhino populations across the African landscape. This includes increasing the continental rhino numbers over the next five years.
Following our report back in January, amendments to the Norms and Standards for the Marking of Rhinoceros and Rhinoceros Horn, and the Hunting of Rhinoceros for Trophy Hunting Purposes are being finalised. This is particularly important in addressing the movement and safekeeping of rhino horns and the management of the hunting of rhino.
We are also implementing Biodiversity Management Plans for white and black rhino. The BMPs form part of a dynamic and continuing management planning process and allow for review and monitoring of actions to accommodate changing priorities and emerging issues: with the aim of ensuring the long-term conservation of rhino.
3. Long-Term Sustainability Measures
National Biodiversity Economy Strategy (NBES)
We reported in January on the publication of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy which is at the heart of promoting guardianship of wildlife within our communities.
In order to develop detailed implementation plans for the enhanced operationalisation of the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy, we have for the period of 10 April 2016 to 13 May 2016 assembled multiple stakeholders in a delivery lab under the theme “Growing the economic contribution of South Africa’s biological resources”.
This multidisciplinary and stakeholder delivery approach is based on the premise that South Africa’s rich biological diversity offers huge economic potential and sets priorities for the wildlife and bio-prospecting sectors. Key initiatives have been identified for growing the GDP contribution of the wildlife and bio-prospecting sectors while ensuring effective transformation of these sectors.
An integral part of the Integrated Strategic Management Approach is bringing communities into the mainstream of conservation.
By creating real opportunities for our people in the conservation and wildlife management space, they will be less vulnerable to exploitation by poachers.
We have heeded the call by President Jacob Zuma during his visit to the Kruger National Park last year for us to step up our work with Traditional Leaders and their communities, by driving programmes that enable communities to recognise the value of wildlife.
As stated in our January report-back, some 107 community projects adjacent to parks have been identified for socio-economic development support, and the transfer of donated animals. A total of 60 projects are either completed or under implementation, while 47 are at various stages of planning.
These community conservation and wildlife management projects are spread across all the provinces, and focus on a range of areas including land rehabilitation and restoration, open space and greening, infrastructure development in provincial and community owned nature reserves, and a variety of wildlife economy projects.
In line with our objective to transform the Biodiversity Economy, SANParks is in the process of conducting land suitability assessments for several properties owned by communities and entrepreneurs with the aim of transferring animals to them.
Also as part of this programme, the next two months SANParks will also transfer animals to a property owned by the Khomani San community adjacent to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Communities adjacent to a number of other parks including Addo Elephant, Augrabies Falls and the Kruger National Park are also being engaged with a view to supporting the growth of a transformed wildlife economy
4. International and Regional Cooperation
In order to further strengthen the efforts of our law enforcement agencies to tackle transnational wildlife crime, the Hawks, INTERPOL NCB office in Pretoria and the Organised Crime component recently convened a 3 day lekgotla at the NCB office in Pretoria. The focus of the meeting was to increase national, regional and international law enforcement collaboration and cooperation on combating wildlife trafficking, establishing a better working relationship with INTERPOL, sharing of information, training and trans-national operations.
During the three days achievable objectives were formulated as the departure point to address transnational wildlife trafficking. These objectives are in line with the request from the Portfolio Committee, DPCI priority focus area on wildlife trafficking, Natjoints instructions, Project Rhino 6 & 7 and the draft National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking in South Africa recently developed by SAPS.
4.1 Memoranda of Understanding
We continue to collaborate strategically with rhino range and consumer states to support us in tackling the threat of organised transnational criminal syndicates involved in the illegal wildlife trade.
The second phase of a Vietnamese Youth Education Project, implemented in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation and Wilderness Foundation is being launched in schools throughout Ho Chi Minh City this month (May 2016). The campaign aims to educate and engage the youth and empower them as ambassadors for rhino protection and conservation.
Since the bilateral agreement was signed in April 2014 between South Africa and Mozambique action plans have been implemented. The net effect of continued cooperation with state and private parties in Mozambique has resulted in an overall decrease in poaching from our neighbour.
We congratulate our neighbour, Mozambique, for their well-publicised successes in recent months.
Work continues with the resettlement of communities from the Limpopo National Park, our partnership with the Police and Environmental Police, joint reporting to CITES, and with regard to policy harmonisation.
Work with private concessions adjacent to the Kruger National Park, in Mozambique has resulted in real, tangible measures to combat rhino poaching. From these concessions initiatives have emerged that have begun to shift the mindset of the youth and communities towards protecting our rhino.
We will continue our engagements with Cambodia and joint programmes are being developed.
In addition, Memoranda of Understanding are to be signed with Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand, Kenya, Botswana and Tanzania as part of our rhino management strategy at regional and international levels.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The 17th Conference of Parties to CITES promises to be one of the most exciting Conferences the Convention has ever experienced. It will start on National Heritage Day, a very special day celebrated by South Africans to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and the diversity of our rainbow nation.
COP17 to CITES will be held at one of the continent’s most prestigious and technologically advanced business and conference venues: the Sandton Convention Centre.
One hundred and seventy five (175) documents will be considered during the two week Conference. Among these documents, 60 are proposals to amend the lists of species subject to CITES trade controls. This includes proposals submitted by South Africa.
The Conference will also deliberate on the role of CITES in securing the livelihoods of people living with wildlife and ensuring communities are considered in terms of interventions implemented under the Convention.
As indicated by the CITES Secretariat in their recent media release, a vast array of issues will be discussed, including legal and sustainable wildlife trade, measures to tackle illicit wildlife trafficking, such as fighting corruption, enhanced enforcement, targeted demand reduction and supporting local livelihoods.
This important event will further afford the country an opportunity to showcase its rich biodiversity and its successful sustainable use management practices, which has resulted in South Africa being one of the leaders in conservation today.
South Africa will demonstrate our commitment to the sustainable utilisation of natural resources in contributing to socio-economic development of poor and rural communities as part of the development agenda of government.
At the Ministerial meeting scheduled to take place prior to the Opening Ceremony of the CoP, the role of CITES in advancing Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals will be discussed in more detail.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are optimistic that this is the year in which we turn the tide on rhino poaching. We are under no illusions of the challenges ahead, but we are confident that slowly but surely, progress is being made.
These successes could not have been achieved without the dedicated work of our rangers, Security Cluster partners, other State departments and municipalities, public entities, private sector, NGOs, donors, traditional leaders and their communities, and public at large, as well as our regional and international partners.
We salute all those who remain committed to ending poaching and the decimation of our wildlife. We as government commit to working together with our colleagues in the private sector and NGOs, and, most importantly, communities, to ensure that our wildlife is protected for generations to come.
In closing, we once again want to encourage not just all South Africans, but all citizens of the world to be part of our effort.
Let us all say “Not on our Watch”. This includes members of the media present here today.
Bring us information you may have on rhino poaching, and wildlife crime in general, and encourage your friends, families and friends to do the same.
Be vigilant, report suspicious activity in your area that you think may be related to rhino poaching. No matter how small or insignificant you may think it is, it can help us.
Raise awareness using various media platforms, including social media.
Continue with the great activities that so many of our citizens are doing, whether it is fundraising or education and awareness raising. Keep it up!
We are only able to achieve victory if we work together. This requires hard work, commitment and unity. We share a common goal.
In less than four months time, the world spotlight will be on South Africa as we host COP17 to CITES.
We will be proud to say that we South Africans are indeed the home of the rhino, and we plan to keep it that way!
I thank you.
Issued by Albi Modise, Department of Environmental Affairs, 9 May 2016