SA, Moz to talk rhino


South African authorities are finalising plans to meet their Mozambican counterparts to discuss ways to curb rhino poaching in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The meeting will be between Water and Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa and officials from the Mozambican government.

“We think that poachers might be taking advantage of a section of the fence which has been dropped between the two countries,” said department spokesman Albi Modise. Earlier this year, Molewa raised concerns about criminals who were breaching the border to commit crimes, including rhino poaching, the state BuaNews agency reports.

Modise said the two countries would address, among others, ways to jointly strengthen and upgrade security at the border. “We also would want to share with our Mozambican counterparts initiatives that allow collaboration between various security agencies to deal with poaching as a priority crime.
“The rhino poaching situation calls for drastic measures to be applied and the minister is convinced that working together with our national security agencies, we should be able to strengthen all our national entry points like the OR Tambo International Airport and others,” he said.

Modise said although Molewa was satisfied with the work being done by partners in the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit, she believed more needed to be done. He said entire the Southern African Development Community needed to work together. “Poachers have no respect for any political boundaries. Our nation and continent’s heritage is under threat from criminals who believe the irresponsible stories being perpetuated that one can get rich from rhino poaching, while the reality is far from this. The only people who make any money are the ruthless leaders of the syndicates,” said Modise.

Mozambican High Commissioner to South Africa, Fernando Fazenda, welcomed the upcoming meeting. “I think it is a good thing to deal with the issue here in South Africa and on the Mozambican side. I hope it will be helpful because some poachers are South Africans, while others are Mozambican,” said Fazenda.

Mozambique’s Consul to Mpumalanga and Limpopo, Arthur Verissimo, said the first step had already been taken in addressing poaching. “Mozambican forces have been deployed to the borderline in order to fight criminal activities, including rhino poaching,” said Verissimo.

Spokesman for the Kruger National Park, which forms part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, William Mabasa, said rhino poaching was already declining in the park. “As a result of increasing the number of officers from different law enforcement agencies, we have managed to reduce rhino poaching incidents in the park. We are congratulating all the forces that are participating in the fight against rhino poaching,” said Mabasa.

Last year, 333 rhino were killed at South African National Parks reserves, nearly three times more than in 2009, when 122 rhino were killed. In 2007, only 13 were poached. This year, more than 159 rhino have been killed in the Kruger alone. Altogether, 124 suspected rhino poachers have been arrested nationwide, 62 of whom were arrested in the Kruger, BuaNews said.