Durban – GREAT strides have been made by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Edtea), World Wide Fund for Nature and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) to protect and restore the rhino population as the world observed World Rhino Day on Tuesday.
Since the start of 2020, 66 rhinos have been poached in KwaZulu-Natal. Ten rhinos were poached in January, 19 in February, 36 in March and one between August and September. No rhinos were poached between April and July.
Edtea MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube paid tribute to law enforcement agencies, nature lovers, and conservationists who are working with Ezemvelo to fight wildlife crime.
Dube-Ncube said they recommitted themselves, as a government, to ensure that an integrated approach was used to protect and conserve the rhino population for future generations.
“Working with our partners, we have decided to invest in Smart Park connectivity and the integration of systems to ensure early detection and rapid response.”
She said one of the key instruments being used was the installation of infra-red trap cameras linked directly to the “Parks Operations Centre”.
“These cameras using artificial intelligence identify people and send an immediate alert to the operations centre, which then rapidly alerts and activates the relevant reaction units and associated resources.”
She said they were hopeful about the decline in rhino poaching but “it must be noted that the pressure on the rhino was ever present”.
“Two sections of the detection fence have been upgraded to date, and we have already seen a shift in rhino poaching activity away from both areas to sites where there is no detection fence. The fence is being upgraded in phases, with specific sections focused on because of their poaching threat and conservation need.”
Ezemvelo spokesperson Musa Mntambo admitted that the national lockdown assisted in the reduction of poaching incidents.
“We have improved our relations with communities residing outside our parks as they remain our eyes and ears in ensuring that they provide us with information before poaching happens,” said Mntambo.
Deff Minister Barbara Creecy said seven integrated wildlife zones were being introduced across South Africa to protect the country’s rhino.
The introduction of the integrated wildlife zones sees an expansion of the effort to protect the world’s largest black and white rhino populations. By introducing a zoning approach, the necessary resources can be redirected to areas most in need of support.
“This initiative prevents borders and boundaries from inhibiting planning and the implementation of actions aimed at halting rhino poaching and the smuggling of rhino horn,” said Creecy.