Speech by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy at the handover of Bat Hawk Aircraft to Sanparks by Anglo Platinum
Thank You Programme Director
Prakashim Moodliar, Executive head: Projects at Anglo American Platinum
American Platinum and your team
Members of the SANParks Board present
SANParks Executive Management
Kruger National Park Management Committee members
SANParks Honorary Rangers present
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Today is a day of celebration and a historic one at that. Anglo Platinum are donating Ultra-Light aircraft called the Bat Hawk, to assist Sanparks with our conservation efforts.
This is a much-appreciated gesture, that allows us to add another weapon to our arsenal to prevent poaching and to monitor our ecosystem.
Anglo Platinum joins a number of international and local companies and individuals who work with SANParks to protect our natural world and our threatened species.
These Ultra-Light aircraft, will assist us in carrying out aerial patrols as well as monitoring and effectively managing the environment.
As custodians of our fauna and flora, SANParks has limited resources at its disposal. It is therefore important to form partnerships to look after our country’s rich and varied biodiversity. We therefore work with the private sector, other branches of government, research institutions, universities and NGO’s to identify and fund best conservation practice.
The Kruger National Park remains an iconic and unique place for millions of visitors who come here to not only enjoy the solitude, but also to rejuvenate themselves before returning to the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.
Unfortunately our iconic Park, has also faced the brunt of rhino poaching over the last fifteen years.
Consequently, multiple biological and law enforcement interventions continue to be employed to fight the scourge of poaching, and wildlife crime in general. This is a war of boots on the ground, as well a much more sophisticated operation to disrupt global trade networks.
Our Department in cooperation with the provincial conservation authorities, SANParks, private rhino owners and the SAPS, has been focusing on a more proactive and integrated approach, which emphasises increasing situational awareness and sharing of information.
Joint teams work on focused investigations with the support of the Environmental Enforcement Fusion Centre, ensuring consolidation of information nationally and the ability to provide analysis support, not only at a tactical level but also to investigating teams.
The aim is to strengthen our capability, not only at a tactical level to prevent and combat poaching, but also our ability to disrupt the activities along the value chain with a focus on integrated, intelligence-led investigations, inclusive of the financial aspects.
As a result of these efforts, in the first six months of the year, 69 people were arrested in connection with rhino poaching and rhino horn trafficking in the first half of this year. Additionally, 4 alleged rhino horn traffickers were arrested in the first half of this year for trying to smuggle 56 pieces of rhino horn out of the country.
A number of search and seizure operations have taken place countrywide, leading to the confiscation of 29 rhino horn.
Fifty one people have been convicted this year for offences related to rhino poaching. The heaviest sentence handed down was 34 years imprisonment, while two Mpumalanga men were sentenced to 28 years behind bars for killing rhino and being in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is internationally recognised that effective conservation strategies must always be paired with effective community beneficiation for those living near protected areas. In this regard, SANParks and its concessionaires, employ over 6 100 people, eighty percent of whom are recruited from neighbouring communities.
Through our expanded public works programme, a further 13 650 work opportunities were created last year. We were also to buy goods and services from over eight hundred small enterprises.
Earlier this year in an effort to further expand the economic opportunities in our national parks, SANParks hosted an investment conference where over 100 projects were launched for public-private partnerships for, amongst others, accommodation, retail activities and restaurants in our national parks.
This model also includes the setting aside a minimum of ten percent share equity for land claimants, as well as creating preferential procurement opportunities for local communities and provision of the much needed jobs. We understand local community beneficiation as the only long term sustainable approach to conservation.
I want today to end by paying tribute once again to the courage and dedication of our ranger service. These men and women are in the frontline of the battle against organised wildlife criminal syndicates and have on occasion paid the supreme price for their dedication.
Today’s donation by Anglo Platinum is a powerful incentive to our rangers to continue the fight. It provides significant back up for patrols and combat operations. We thank you once again.
We have no doubt your contribution enables us to fulfil our constitutional mandate to protect our environment for the benefit of present and future generations.
Source: Government of South Africa