Little girl's plea over rhinos prompts president to reply
The letter by a seven-year-old girl, appealing to President Jacob Zuma to "save our rhinos", has touched the heart of South Africa' s first citizen.
He wrote to her saying the government was "highly concerned" about the plight of the endangered species.
In a letter written to Afeefah Patel of Evans Park, Johannesburg, through The Times, Zuma explained what the government was doing to halt the poaching.
Addressed to Ms Afeefah Patel, the president wrote: "Thank you very much for your touching letter on the plight of the rhinos, which was published in The Times newspaper on April 16 2012.
"I am happy that at such a young age you have an interest in your environment and want to play a role in its protection.
"I want you to know that our government has been as highly concerned at the staggering numbers of rhinos that have been killed in just this year alone. I am told that the total number is over 103 rhinos."
Afeefah sent a letter to The Times editor through her father, Shiraaz.
In it, she wrote: "Please tell President Zuma to look after our rhinos."
In his response, Zuma said: "These high figures of illegal poaching and senseless killing of our rhinos are the reason why we, as government, are increasing our efforts to deal with these merciless acts. This is why we launched Operation Rhino, which involves all law-enforcement agencies in the protection of such endangered species."
Zuma said Operation Rhino brought together "the police [SA Police Service's organised crime unit] and our soldiers [SA National Defence Force], the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority, all working together to protect our beloved rhinos. They are as concerned as you [are] to bring the perpetrators to book.
"We also want to put a stop to the hunting of white rhinos by foreign hunters. We also want to strengthen the rules and regulations with regards to the hunting of rhinos in general," he said.
Zuma said the government was planning to do this by tightening rules on hunting to ensure that hunters belonged to a hunting association recognised by the government, and who have adequate hunting experience.
"We also want to ensure that hunting takes place in the presence of environmental inspectors or an official of the issuing authority who is authorised to conduct compliance inspections," he said.
"We are delighted to receive support from people like you who love the environment and want to see it protected for future generations. Please continue playing a part in promoting the safety of our endangered species. I am very proud of you! You are a very good South African."
He ended the letter, signing it off with: "Sincerely, Mr JG Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa."