By Siboniso Shiba
Members of the portfolio committee on environmental affairs and conservation have heard that granting ownership rights of game parks to communities will provide a remedy to the scourge of rhino poaching.
The committee appeared to have been swayed by the arguments raised by the communities during the public hearings engagements on how nature can be preserved in the province. Portfolio committee chairperson Jackson Mthembu said the committee had been impressed by the case made by communities.
“Giving the community rights to own game parks could be more effective to protect our animals. It is beyond doubt that some poachers are members of the society,” he said.
The committee was in KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend for public hearings on how poaching can be prevented.
Many of those who made presentations proposed that the ownership of the game parks should pass to them to help fight rhino poaching. More than 695 rhino have been killed in the country despite the government investing millions of rands in efforts to prevent the killing of the wild animals.
Mthembu said the matter was in the hands of the parliamentary panel assigned to do a feasibility study to prove the strategy would bear fruit.
“Giving ownership to the communities would create a sense of responsibility. This is not an easy war because rhino horn is in demand.
But if the community members know that they own some of those parks they would make sure they safeguard them,” he said.
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa gave a nod to the public proposal but stressed that the matter still needed to be dealt with by the parliamentary committee.
She said poverty and other economic factors also contributed to the killing of rhino for their horns.
“We will undertake campaigns at public institutions such as schools to propagate awareness on rhino poaching and its dangers,” she said.
“We do agree that community involvement in protecting the rhino species will help in reducing the scourge of pouching.”
She said although many arrests had been made and heavy sentences handed down to poachers, the continued killing of rhino underlined the need to find new ways to counter the threat.