8 February 2012
Top government officials from South Africa and Mozambique held an urgent meeting this week to find practical solutions to the scourge of rhino poaching, which saw the Kruger National Park losing 252 rhinos in 2011 alone.
The meeting was attended by Mozambican Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana Jnr and South African Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
Mozambican assistance ‘urgently needed’
During the meeting, Molewa stressed that poaching in the Kruger had escalated to such unacceptable levels that South Africa urgently required the full support of Mozambique if rhino killings were to be significantly reduced.
Recently, Molewa said she had considered various ways of reduce the attacks through the Mozambique border between the Massingir and the Komatipoort areas, including:
- Adding 150 field rangers to increase law enforcement officers in the Kruger National Park to 650.
- Requesting the South African government to increase its military presence in the park.
- Improving coordinated national efforts to increase intelligence gathering.
- Strengthening the border fence between Massingir and Komatipoort.
Mozambique outlines measures
Sumbana emphasized the commitment of Mozambique to conservation, noting that the Mozambican government had prioritised law enforcement efforts that went beyond the narrow focus of rhino poaching.
“Mozambique is currently pondering legislation that will elevate the offence of wildlife poaching to a criminal offence carrying heavier sentencing rather than the current offence of damage to property,” Sumbana said, adding that Mozambique’s natural resources were being plundered by organised criminals.
Further to the proposed legislation, a new elite highly trained National Anti-Poaching Unit had been formed and the first recruits would be graduating shortly and deployed in priority poaching areas.
Sumbana added that the Mozambican government hasd passed a decree creating a flexible state-owned agency similar to that of South African National Parks (SANParks).
“This will assist with management effectiveness and allow greater flexibility in sourcing funding than is currently the case.”
The meeting also highlighted the success of collaborating with Mozambique on the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) with reduced rhino poaching incidents, and the difficulties of erecting a fence between Massingir and Komatipoort.
New transfrontier conservation area in the pipeline
SANParks CEO David Mabunda recently visited the head of the transfrontier conservation areas unit in Mozambique’s Ministry of Tourism, Bartolomeu Soto, to discuss the idea of including the 220 000-hectare Greater Lebombo Conservancy to act as an effective buffer for the southern section of the Kruger National Park linking with Mozambique.
The idea has since morphed into a Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) in line with the signed treaty that created the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
Article 3(2) of the signed treaty envisioned the TFCA in Mozambique to include “the Massingir and Corumana areas, as well as the interlinking regions”, thus creating an immediate framework for bilateral cooperation between the two countries for the inclusion of the Greater Lebombo Conservancy.
The two ministers agreed to cooperate bilaterally to ensure that the planned TFCA was realised and concluded speedily.