Pretoria - The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has welcomed a R232.2 million grant to help combat rhino poaching in southern Africa.
The Dutch and Swedish Postcode Lotteries made the funding available to the Peace Parks Foundation. The Dutch Postcode Lottery donated a total of R217 million, with R15.2 million being contributed by the Swedish Postcode Lottery.
Welcoming the public-private partnership to help ensure the survival of the species, Molewa noted that the grant was the largest single contribution made by the private sector to combat rhino poaching and wildlife crime.
"This very generous donation gives new hope to save our rhino. I believe this grant from the Dutch and Swedish Postcode Lotteries will be the catalyst to turn the tide on rhino poaching and wildlife crime," Molewa said.
The South African government and its public entities, South African National Parks (SANParks) and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo), are working closely with the Peace Parks Foundation to develop a strategy to combat rhino poaching and wildlife crime.
According to the department, the majority of the funding will be spent on enhancing the existing efforts to protect rhino in South Africa, which hosts 83% of the continent's wild rhino population.
All other southern African rhino range states have been consulted during the development of this project and they will form an integral part of the strategies designed to save the species.
"The main focus will be the devaluation of the horns of live rhino, through a combination of methods, including the physical devaluation and contamination of the horn, as well as the use of tracking and monitoring technology," Molewa said.
Molewa said this special project had been designed to supplement the work of the SANParks in the Kruger National Park and the Mozambican government in Limpopo National Park, both integral to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
"In particular, the emphasis will be on intelligence gathering and on technology applications such as conservation drones and other specialist equipment. It will also include training and capacity building, as well as incentives and rewards for rangers, communities and members of the public who support the conservation of rhino."
Ezemvelo will be supported with similar interventions to conserve South Africa's second largest rhino population, that of KwaZulu-Natal.
In September 2012, Ezemvelo became the first state conservation agency in Africa to trial the treatment of rhino horn to deter the rampant poaching of this species.
"Thanks to this innovative step, not a single rhino has been lost in the reserves where the treatment was piloted," Molewa noted.
The R217 million cheque was received from the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on behalf of the Dutch Postcode Lottery by government's Rhino Issue Task Manager and Peace Parks Foundation board member, Mavuso Msimang, SANParks CEO, Dr David Mabunda, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife CEO, Dr Bandile Mkhize and CEO of Peace Parks Foundation, Werner Myburgh.
Commenting on the grant, Werner Myburgh said: "We thank the lotteries and their players for this tremendous support to combat wildlife crime and we look forward to working with the southern African governments in ensuring the survival of the region's rhino."
Peace Parks Foundation was established in 1997 to assist the region's governments in their development of transfrontier conservation areas.
Myburgh highlighted that the foundation's biggest supporter in this endeavour has been the Dutch Postcode Lottery and more recently the Swedish Postcode Lottery.