South Africa, through Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, believes the country is at war with rhino poachers and it is a war “we must win,” she told a rhino conservation event on the sidelines of the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.
With rhino poaching accounting for three animals a day until the end of October, South Africa looks set to lose more than a thousand of this Big Five species by year-end and last year’s all-time high of 1 004 could be surpassed.
She told the Sydney gathering that South Africa had not taken any decision on legalising trade in rhino horn.
“If we come up with measures that completely eradicate poaching we may not need to look at trade. We are not looking for money. We are looking at war. This is a war we must win. If there is a solution we may not have to look at possible trade,” she said.
Molewa emphasised no final proposal has been compiled, or decision made, regarding the future legal trade in rhino horn as an additional intervention to reduce the levels of poaching.
“Unfortunately the threat of poaching has continued to escalate while various multi-facetted interventions are being implemented by South Africa. We are concerned that poaching is part of a multi-billion dollar worldwide illicit wildlife trade. Addressing the scourge is not simple,” she said.
Included in the interventions are the creation of intensive protection zones, translocation of rhino to safe havens within rhino range states, the introduction of new technology and investigating the possibility of a feasible rhino trade, or not.
Latest available rhino kill statistics show 899 dead across all nine provinces with the Kruger National Park still the “target of choice” for poachers. The world famous game reserve had by October 24 lost 581 rhinos – well over half the national loss of 899.
Arrests in connection with rhino poaching continue to rise with 282 people behind bars as of three weeks ago. Last year saw police and other security agencies make 343 arrests in total.