Push for Kruger fence

29 May 2013 - 03:13 By DENISE WILLIAMS
Edna Molewa. File picture.
Edna Molewa. File picture.

After a year-and-a-half, an agreement between Mozambique and South Africa to curb rhino poaching still has not been signed.

After her budget vote speech in parliament yesterday, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said she "wished" the deal to erect a fence in the Kruger National Park at the border with Mozambique had "happened yesterday".

The fence is intended to deter poachers from entering South Africa.

"We have had two or three meetings postponed from the Mozambican side ... on [two] occasions something urgent occurred on their side, that's what we were told [and we accepted that]," she said.

The deputy director-general for biodiversity and conservation in Molewa's department, Fundisile Mketeni, said a 40km fence through the park had been taken down eight years ago to allow the free flow of animals across the border.

But rhino poachers also benefited from the removal of the fence.

"There are some stakeholders who still feel that the fence will not be a solution," Mketeni said.

More than 350 rhino have been reported killed by poachers since the start of this year.

Between 2007 and February last year, 1460 rhino were killed by poachers.

Molewa said her department would consider amendments to close loopholes in the National Environmental Management Act.

  • South Africa has signed agreements with Vietnam and China intended to hamper the thriving black market for rhino horn. A similar agreement with Laos is said to be in the pipeline.

Molewa said R75-million had been allocated for 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 for the SA National Parks fight against poaching.

During the budget vote debate, DA MP Marti Wenger said an agreement with Mozambique was of the utmost importance.

"A special agreement with Mozambique has to be very stringent, considering that more than 80% of the poachers apprehended are from Mozambique," she said.

The ANC MP and chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on water and environmental affairs, Johnny de Lange, said legitimising the sale of rhino horn could help prevent the slaughter of this country's rhino population, currently estimated at 25460.

It would also help to "destroy or at least debilitate" the black market for rhino horn, he said.

"The data suggest that the banning of legal open trade in rhino horn has not resulted in reduced demand for the horn and has thus not helped the objective of saving the rhino from imminent extinction.

"Escalation in the slaughter of rhino is proof of this," he said.

De Lange said legalising the trade in rhino horn in South Africa was likely to shift control of the market out of the hands of organised crime and into legal channels.

The large and steady supply of horn that legalisation would bring about was also likely to lower and stabilise prices, which would also hurt the black market, De Lange said.

For these reasons, the government will ask for the ban on trading in rhino horn to be lifted at the 17th conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, to be held in South Africa in 2016.