By Qondile Ntiwane
As the scourge of rhino poaching runs rife in Africa, one country seems to be standing its ground spectacularly well: Swaziland.
According to online publication Traveller 24, the country is doing well when it comes to tackling issues of poaching.
As a result of Swaziland’s successful fight against poaching, Traveller 24 says others can learn from the Kingdom. In particular, the magazine points out the Kruger National Park, which it says has a lot to learn from Swaziland.
The issue was discussed during the World Travel Market (WTM) in Cape Town about two weeks ago.
While South Africa suffered the scourge of poaching severely, having lost 3 384 rhinos since 2011, Swaziland has lost only three. This was said to be according to the Wessa’s Statistics.
Writer and photographer, Scott Ramsay said he spent some time at Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland last year and came back with valuable insights.
In a video interview with the online publication, he mentioned the exceptional work of rangers as one of the best conservation efforts in Southern Africa at the moment.
“There are lots of lessons there for South Africa and Kruger National Park,” he was quoted saying.
He added that Swaziland’s anti-poaching legislation is rather revolutionary and should stand as an example to other African countries, especially South Africa.
Scott's opinion was greatly informed by an interview he said he conducted with Big Game Parks’ Ted Reilly, who explained the basics about what is known as The Game Act.
He said Reilly explained that anyone who would poachor attempt to poach one of the specially protected species (white or black rhino, elephant or lion), would go to jail and that there would be a minimum of five years imprisonment, which could be increased to 15 years with no option of a fine.
Ramsay explained that apart from this, the offender would also be expected to pay back the prescribed value of the animal poached to the owner.
The article further explained that current legislation in South Africa does not require offenders to go to jail and if they are imprisoned, they are given the option to pay a fine and walk free.
“According to a 2001 report on News24, The Game Act was implemented for the first time in 1991 after 80% of Swaziland's rhino population had been killed off. It was Reilly and other conservationists who pushed for tougher legislation and the results speak for themselves,” reads part of the article.
Ann Reilly, who is daughter to the legendary conservationist, was amongst those who attended the event and shared some insights into Swaziland's incredible conservation successes from the past few decades.
She said while she could share facts, figures and statistics about Swaziland's wildlife, and the rhino population more specifically, the country's successes took the form of an epic, ongoing, story with heroes, villains and a good sprinkling of magic.
“By the end of colonial rule in the country, the state of Swaziland's wildlife was so dire that there was hardly an antelope left, not to mention any of the Big 5. Realising the devastating effect hunting expeditions had had on the country; a young Ted Reilly decided to approach King Sobhuza II with a plan to demarcate specific areas for the protection of existing wildlife.”
“What followed was years and years of remarkable partnership between the Reilly family and the Swazi Royal House, which has continued with King Mswati III, the current ruler,” she is quoted