Poaching is not a one-dimensional problem and cannot be solved by militarisation alone, says Environmental Affairs Minister Dr Edna Molewa.
“It necessitates an integrated approach that draws together all sectors of society — be it government, the private sector, the NGO and donor community and importantly, communities,” Molewa said.
Addressing the 2018 African Ranger Awards in Cape Town on Tuesday, the Minister said South Africa is managing and conserving its biodiversity in the face of a multitude of threats.
Molewa said the factors that incentivise people to become involved in the illegal trade in wildlife must be addressed.
“We must alleviate poverty and unemployment in areas surrounding conservation areas. When communities are brought into the mainstream of conservation through the creation of socio-economic opportunities for them from this same wildlife, the incentive to be involved in illegal activities will be addressed,” Molewa said.
As the country with the world’s largest population of rhino, South Africa is battling transnational syndicates who lure vulnerable communities to become involved in rhino poaching.
“Hundreds of rangers are killed annually across the world in the line of duty. They don’t only fall prey to the poacher’s gun, but are targeted by insurgents in conflicts such as that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as by criminal syndicates involved in activities like illegal logging in countries such as Senegal,” the Minister said.
She appealed to the donor community that is already doing so much to support the work of rangers to do even more.
“We rely on you to help keep our rangers and other people safe, whether they are out on night patrols in our game parks, or on the high seas working to prevent poaching and smuggling of our marine resources. Work with us, come to see what our rangers do, and become more involved,” the Minister said.