SA, Laos to sign rhino protection pact


28 October 2013

South Africa and Laos are to sign an agreement aimed at curbing rhino poaching, the Department of Environmental Affairs said on Friday.

The department said the Memorandum of Understanding on Biodiversity would be accompanied by the endorsement of an implementation plan outlining steps and timeframes for eradicating wildlife crimes between the two countries.

Laos is situated in Southeast Asia, where rhino horn is popularly believed to have medicinal properties, fuelling widespread illegal trade in the horn.

“South Africa regards rhino poaching and illicit trafficking in wildlife and endangered species as part of the new and emerging forms of crime,” Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in a statement.

The number of rhino poached for their horns in South Africa since January 2013 has increased to 790, while 31 poachers have been arrested in the past two weeks. The total number of people facing rhino poaching-related charges has increased to 259.

The Kruger National Park has lost a total of 476 rhino so far this year. Of the total number of rhino poached, 87 rhino have been killed in Limpopo province, 65 in North West, 73 in KwaZulu-Natal and 68 in Mpumalanga. Four rhino have been poached in Gauteng, while three have been poached in the Eastern Cape and three in the Marakele National Park.

Molewa said the government had established partnerships with privately owned nature conservation estates to address the scourge and put specific measures in place to combat illegal hunting within South Africa’s borders and abroad.

The department has also signed agreements with several Asian countries as part of efforts to stop the illegal trade of rhino horn.

An implementation plan, putting into action the terms of a memorandum of understanding signed with China on cooperation in wetland and desert ecosystems and wildlife conservation, is also expected to be signed soon.

“Rhino poaching was declared a national security risk and a national priority in 2011 and is being dealt with through a plethora of interventions at the highest levels of government,” Molewa said.

National interventions included legislative amendments, the creation of a National Rhino Fund and greater cooperation with stakeholders locally and internationally.