Environmental Affairs Minister tells UN conference rhino poaching won’t happen “on our watch”


South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has told a joint Interpol/UNEP (UN Environmental Protection) conference that the forces for good in the fight against, specifically rhino poaching, and generally wildlife crime, is backed by the slogan “Not on our watch”.

Addressing the conference, currently underway in Singapore, she said the slogan assists all South Africans, not only those directly involved with preventing wildlife crime, “in communicating our conviction to save the rhino. It emphasises the fact that we will not allow the rhino to become extinct”.

She said South Africa had stepped up its efforts to fight rhino poaching.
“In the world-famous Kruger National Park, the epicentre of the rhino poaching epidemic, we have stepped up our efforts, bolstering traditional anti-poaching strategies with the utilisation of K-9 units, air and land capability, and night capability,” she told delegates to the second conference of its kind on environmental compliance and enforcement.

She also pointed out Kruger was now home to a mission area joint operations centre which “allows South Africa to be one step ahead of the poachers”.
“The centre enables real-time decision making, faster reaction and more proactive operations through live streaming of information that enables us deploy resources more intelligently.
“In addition, the GEF-UNEP Rhino Programme continues to strengthen our capabilities in relation to forensic capacity, information sharing and implementation of our commitments,” Minister Molewa said. This programme also raises awareness on environmental and wildlife crime and has, so far this year, had 150 magistrates attend. It has also trained 120 prosecutors in specific aspects of wildlife crime.

Molewa did not provide any statistics on rhino killings, or any other species, apart from informing attendees “illegal activities targeting our wild cycads, abalone and the killing of rhino for its horn” were the most visible of wildlife crimes in South Africa.

Rhino poachers had, by August, killed 749 of this Big Five species nationally with Kruger losing 544. Since then there has been no official release of rhino kill statistics by the Department of Environmental Affairs. Some conservation non-government organisations put the kill figure at more than 900. Last year saw 1,213 rhinos killed by poachers.

Elephants also appear to be in the sights of poachers with Kruger alone reporting 12 killings in September and October. All told 19 elephants have been killed in the world-famous game reserve this year.