| 27 May 2014
Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson urges community participation to fight rhino poaching
22 September 2014
As communities and individuals around the world gathered to mark World Rhino Day, the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson, has urged all people to take a firm stand against rhino poaching.
Ms Thomson led a World Rhino Day event, hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and SANParks in cooperation with the Bushbuckridge Municipality at the Thulamahashe Stadium in Mpumalanga today.
Hundreds of community members joined government officials in a fun run for Rhino through the streets of Bushbuckridge before participating in a march under the slogan Not on our Watch to the Thulamahashe police station.
The participants in the fun run and march were conscious of the need to raise awareness and seek economic alternative to poaching as the number of rhino poached for their horns since the start of the year climbed to 787. A total of 232 alleged poachers have been arrested since January 2014.
The Kruger National Park, situated a short distance from Bushbuckridge, continued to bear the brunt of rhino poaching in South Africa having lost 503 animals so far this year. A total of 103 rhino have been poached in Limpopo, 67 in KwaZulu-Natal, 47 in North West and 45 in Mpumalanga.
The marchers, comprising officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs, SANParks, the Bushbuckridge municipality and the local community, showed their concern about the high levels of rhino poaching in South Africa, calling for more action from the police to address the scourge.
The marchers also commended the security and justice system for the work being done collectively and individually to combat rhino poaching.
The Memorandum stated: “As representatives of the citizens of South Africa we would like to pledge our support to you in this battle against rhino poaching, and wildlife crime in general. We pledge to become the eye and ears of the SAPS to ensure that all those responsible for wildlife crimes, particularly rhino poaching, are arrested.”
Deputy Minister Thomson said the hosting of World Rhino Day 2014 in Bushbuckridge is testimony to the municipality’s commitment to play its part in conserving one of the country’s most threatened natural resources, the rhino.
World Rhino Day was launched by the World Wildlife Fund-South Africa in 2010 to celebrate the 5 different species of Rhino. The Day has since grown to become a global event to draw attention to the impact of poaching on the continued survival of the Rhino species.
The Deputy Minister highlighted that it was communities such as that of Bushbuckridge that were often exploited by the crime syndicates in their quest to secure rhino horn.
Amid some of South Africa’s most pressing social and economic needs, it is important to save the rhino from extinction for numerous reasons, she said.
“Without the rhino there will be no Big Five – the reason millions of people from all over the world travel to South Africa and many of our neighbouring countries every year. In other words: If there is no Big Five, there is no tourism.
“Without tourism, there will be no direct jobs in the tourism industry for communities living adjacent to conservation areas, or indirect jobs in industries and sectors that support the tourism business.
“Without jobs, there will be increased poverty, increased crime, and less upliftment of our communities. The government’s aim is to create a better life for all. Without the rhino, that will not be possible. In all, the South African economy will suffer,” said Ms Thomson.
As the country prepared to mark Heritage Day on 24 September, it is important for South Africans to take a firm stand against the threat of poaching to the nation’s heritage.
“We have fought a long and bitter struggle for freedom. This struggle was not only for political freedom, but also freedom to enjoy our natural beauty and environment, which is now bring threatened by shortsighted and ecologically destructive forces such as poachers.”
She appealed to young people who believe they have no future other than crime, or the poaching of wildlife, to make use of opportunities to improve their skills and their lives so that they can contribute to the upliftment of their communities.
The Department of Environmental Affairs also welcomes the actions of communities around the world to focus the world’s attention on rhino poaching during World Rhino Day events.
Ms Thomson also launched the Department of Environmental Affairs’ new slogan against rhino poaching - Not on my watch – at the World Rhino Day event.
“Not on our Watch should spur all of us on to report rhino crimes,” she said. “By blowing the whistle on rhino poaching and wildlife crime you are not only contributing towards saving a species for future generations – our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren – to enjoy and benefit from, you are also contributing to a safer society.”
She added: “I appeal to all you present here today, to become the eyes and ears of the police – to report rhino and wildlife crime, and to state clearly: Not on our Watch!”
**South Africans are urged to report incidents of poaching and tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211.
To access the Deputy Minister’s speech during World Rhino Day 2014, please click on the link below:
Rhino poaching statistics