Minister Edna Molewa pays tribute to game rangers on World Ranger Day 2015
1 August 2015
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, has paid tribute to game rangers working at the coalface of conservation in South Africa.
“The work of a ranger is a diverse and complex one. They have and will continue to lead the way for us in conserving our country’s natural wonders in tribute to all that they do, let us follow in their footsteps, each and every one of us,” said Minister Molewa.
The Minister and the Chief Executive of SANParks, Mr Fundisile Mketeni, on Saturday, 1 August 2015, hosted a World Ranger Day commemoration at the Marakele National Park in Limpopo. The event was a partnership between the Department of Environmental Affairs and South African National Parks (SANParks).
Annually World Ranger Day is marked internationally on 31 July, and is a day set aside annually to commemorate rangers all over the world who have died in the course of their duties, and who risk their lives daily as they work at the forefront of conservation.
Minister Molewa pointed that the Constitutional provision relating to environmental rights emphasises the protection and regeneration of our environment as an inheritance.
“Like many countries, South Africa faces the challenge of managing its natural endowments in the face of increased environmental degradation. The threats are varied, complex and multi-faceted, and range from the threat posed by climate change, to the activities of transnational, organised criminal syndicates involved in the illegal trade and trafficking of wildlife,” said the Minister. “It is our rangers who are at the frontline: whether they are battling wildfires, or confronting poachers.”
The World Ranger Day 2015 commemoration focused on the work of rangers in combating rhino crime, many of whom faced a daily battle to protect parts of the country’s natural heritage, such as the rhino, abalone and cycads.
“As you will know, one of Africa’s most iconic species, the rhino, is increasingly under threat from the poacher’s gun. Rhino populations around the country are vulnerable, as are the rangers who have dedicated their lives to protecting the animals,” said the Minister.
In particularly hard hit areas the ranger corps are being militarised, with some rangers engaged in daily confrontations with heavily armed gangs in the parks. Poachers pose a major threat to the rhino population, particularly in the Kruger National Park, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.
The Minister highlighted the success of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros in South Africa, approved by Cabinet in 2014, pointing out that because of integrated interventions the last rhino had been poached in the Marakele National Park nearly two years ago. The poachers in that instances were tracked down and arrested by rangers in the Park.
“We must salute our rangers, not just as government, but as all South Africans,” said the Minister.
Mr Mketeni said excellent results have been achieved in the Marakele National Park in combating rhino poaching.
“This is an essential yet dangerous line of work that is unrelenting,” said Mr Mketeni.
Highlighting that rangers work in environments that range from peaceful on one day to confrontation the next, he said this is a line of work where the ranger stands between the criminal and poacher and the country’s heritage.
“You are the ranger standing between the poacher and the rhino to save our heritage,” said Mr Mketeni.
The success of the Rhino Protection Plan under implementation at Marakele is fundamentally linked to the work of the park Rangers and the other staff, and the networks of cooperation between the park’s management and those living in the vicinity.
“This model, of integrating communities into the mainstream of conservation, is one we champion and are extremely proud of,” said the Minister.
The Minister stressed the importance of the role communities play in the preservation of South Africa’s natural heritage. Engaging with communities directly to combat wildlife crime is a cornerstone of government’s anti-poaching efforts countrywide.
The introduction of Environmental Monitors (EM’s) into areas facing high numbers of poaching incidents has played a demonstrable role in combating this crime.
A total of 1 460 Environmental Monitors have been deployed countrywide since inception of the Programme in April 2013. All Environmental Monitors are trained as armed or unarmed field rangers through the Southern African Wildlife College in Hoedspruit, Limpopo. Further training, mostly non-accredited is provided by various host institutions both in the public and private sector.
Key objectives of the programme are:
- Provision of additional support for conservation corps through Patrolling and Monitoring.
- Provision of capacity to Conservation Communities to enhance their mandate for biodiversity and ecosystems services.
Through the deployment of Environmental Monitors, rhino poaching has decreased by an estimated 50% in private host institutions.
“These rhino ambassadors play the role of protector and educator interchangeably: and is testimony to the increasingly important role they play in wildlife management today,” said the Minister.
In 2016 South Africa will host the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.
Minister Molewa pointed out that this will provide South Africa with an opportunity to demonstrate not just the country’s conservation successes, but also to promote the sustainable utilisation of its natural resources as an integral part of conservation and economic growth.
The Minister was joined by more than 500 rangers, environmental monitors and members of the community in observing a minute of silence for ranged who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty worldwide in the past year.
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