US donates high-tech equipment to help fight rhino poaching


South Africa’s stock of high-tech equipment to track down and apprehend poachers has been boosted to the tune of more than R12 million by US President Barack Obama’s national strategy to combat wildlife trafficking.

The donation was announced by US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, when she met South African Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, as part of strengthening co-operation in, among others, the illegal wildlife trade.

According to her spokesman Albi Modise, the donation of survival, surveillance and investigative equipment is part of the $3 million (about R48 million) pledged by Obama when he visited South Africa in 2013.
“The funding comes through the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and demonstrates the increased focus on combatting wildlife trafficking across Africa, as laid out in the 2014 National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking,” Modise said.

In addition to South Africa, Jewell also visited Gabon and Kenya to meet with government officials, non-government organisations and conservation leaders to ensure continuation of American efforts to combat illegal trade in wildlife products in the US and other countries.

A US Department of the Interior statement said: “Black markets in the US and abroad are contributing to record high demand for wildlife products, which has a devastating impact on species such as elephants and rhinoceroses, pushing them into further decline and even near extinction. Criminal elements, including insurgent groups, are involved in poaching and transporting ivory and rhino horn across Africa.
“African countries are major source countries for ivory, rhino horn and other illegally taken flora and fauna destined predominantly for markets in Asia. Secretary Jewell travelled to China and Vietnam last summer in a similar effort to further work to crack down on these black markets both at home and internationally.
“This international outreach is part of President Obama’s National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking. The President’s July 2013 Executive Order established an inter-agency Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking co-chaired by Secretary Jewell to develop and implement the strategy, as well as an Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. As stated in the President’s Executive Order, wildlife trafficking reduces the economic, social and environmental benefits of wildlife while generating billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to an illegal economy, fuelling instability and undermining security.”

Last month Molewa said the rhino poaching situation in South Africa “stabilised’ last year. There were 1 175 rhinos killed, down by 40 on the previous year’s all-time high of 1 215