South African Members of Parliament (MPs) met on Monday to address the seriousness and intensity of wildlife crime, particularly rhino poaching.
The meeting, hosted by the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs, took place in the surrounds of the Kruger National Park (KNP), a game reserve in northeastern South Africa.
"Our country is not immune to the challenges posed by emerging forms of crime that have a significant impact on the environment and ultimately the economy through the effect these crimes have on tourism and job creation," South African Minister of Environmental Affairs and Water, Edna Molewa said at the opening session.
The crime of rhino poaching, and related illicit acts, is real and MPs need to find solutions, and in partnership with stakeholders and the international community, to deal with these crimes effectively," Molewa said.
As rhino poaching continues unabated, South Africa's rhino population has been at the center of national and international attention for the past five years.
The KNP continues to bear the brunt of rhino poaching, with a lost of more than 550 of these iconic animals during the past 11 months. Nationwide, a total of 891 rhinos have been slaughtered since the beginning of this year.
"Rhino poaching poses a threat to South Africa's national security, threatening the country's national heritage and the future of the country's tourism industry," the minister noted.
Molewa said she was deeply concerned and affected by the magnitude of rhino poaching in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, especially since this iconic species, known as one of the Big Five, has become the focus of international poaching syndicates.
She said the meeting sends a strong message that the South African government is acutely aware of the seriousness and intensity of wildlife crime, specifically rhino poaching.
Molewa disclosed that a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation is to be signed by the end of January 2014 with neighboring Mozambique, from where most poachers allegedly entered the KNP to poach rhinos. More....