South Africa and Mozambique had have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in a bid to combat rhino poaching within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The Biodiversity Conservation and Management MoU was signed in the Kruger National Park in the Mpumalanga province on 17 April by Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, and Mozambican Minister of Tourism Carvalho Muária.
Since January, 185 rhinos have been poached in the Kruger National Park, which borders Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park to form a part of the transfrontier park. This makes Mozambique a priority for South Africa within the SADC region in the country’s fight against poaching.
Molewa said that the underlying reasons for the poaching are diverse and include trade and market dynamics, legislative and administrative gaps in government, as well as the problem of organised crime and challenges in investigating poaching.
“It has also been recognised that to address the escalating trend in poaching, there are other socioeconomic issues that require attention,” she said.
The agreement aims to strengthen relations between the two countries to improve the protection of endangered species, such as rhino, while working towards a common and co-ordinated management approach for the transfrontier park.
The development of a joint operations cross-border protocol by the park managements will be developed by the safety and security clusters of the two countries.
South Africa has committed R24.9-million to Mozambique to assist with anti-poaching efforts, from a R252-million Swedish and Dutch Postcode Lottery donation, secured by the Peace Parks Foundation.
This will assist with the implementation of counter-trafficking measures, the improvement of communication networks, the training and capacity building of field rangers, the provision of vital operational equipment, the deployment of sniffer dogs and a community awareness project. The parks’ management teams are finalising the project plans.
Molewa also welcomed the enactment of the Conservation Areas Act by the Mozambican government on 9 April 2014, saying it was a sign of the commitment by Mozambique to “fighting the scourge of wildlife crime plaguing both … countries”.
The new Act further commits Mozambique to its international biodiversity conservation obligations and includes transfrontier conservation areas in its national conservation area categories, while introducing harsher sentences for wildlife crime related activities, including rhino poaching.
Good progress has been made in the implementation of a Draft Cooperation Agreement on the joint protection and management of the rhino and elephant population in the Great Limpopo Park and Conservation Area, endorsed to combat wildlife crime at the meeting held between Molewa and Muária in Maputo, Mozambique on 14 June 2013.
Additional steps being taken by following the meeting, have included:
Immediate maintenance and erection of fencing along the eastern boundary of Kruger National Park with Mozambique;
Strengthening of the buffer zone in Mozambique through the establishment of the Greater Lubombo Conservancy;
Creation of an intensive protection zone in the Limpopo National Park;
Deploying a well-trained and armed anti-poaching unit for joint collaboration with the Kruger National Park team and the
Synchronisation of operational plans between the Limpopo and Kruger National Parks.
Since 2008 South Africa has formed an integrated response, involving relevant government departments,conservation authorities, enforcement and intelligence agencies, customs, the prosecuting authorities and other local and international organisations, to address increased rhino poaching.
This includes increasing the number of rangers protecting wildlife, improving regional and international collaboration with neighbouring countries and consumers of rhino horn such as Vietnam, as well as introducing legislation and policy measures to support those working to protect rhino and other wildlife.
Since the start of 2014, 294 rhinos have been poached in South Africa and 93 poachers arrested. Apart from in the KNP, a total of 34 rhinos have been poached in the Limpopo, 26 in North West and 25 in KwaZulu-Natal provinces.