ATC160317: Report of the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources (DMR) on the oversight visit to the Mpumalanga (Kruger National Park), dated 01 March 2016
Report of the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources (DMR) on the oversight visit to the Mpumalanga (Kruger National Park), dated 01 March 2016
The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources having conducted oversight in Mpumalanga (Kruger National Park), from 7 – 11 September 2015 reports as follows:
1. Background and Introduction
- Due to the complexity of the fight against rhino poaching, the committee has not been in a position of receiving a detailed briefing on what the Department of Environmental Affairs is doing in order to combat poaching. On a previous engagement with the Minister of Environmental Affairs, the committee was informed that the only way in which the Department will be able to adequately inform the committee on the multi-departmental approach taken to combat poaching will be through a workshop held at the Kruger National Park. During the workshop, the committee will be informed in detail what is being done by a number of state departments and entities, including International Relations, the police, the SANDF and Customs, to combat rhino poaching. The opportunity to receive this briefing is invaluable to the committee, as it is highly unlikely that all the entities involved with the fight against poaching can be called to Parliament.
- The delegation consisted of the following members of Parliament, Mr OJ Sefako (Chairperson, ANC), Mr MI Rayi (ANC), Ms E Prins (ANC), Mr AJ Nyambi (ANC), Mr JP Parkies (ANC), Mr N Singh (ANC), Mr EM Mlambo (ANC), Mr CFB Smit (DA), Ms B Masango (DA), Ms C Labuschagne (DA), Ms MA Kakgosi (EFF) and Parliamentary support staff, Mr AA Bawa (Committee Secretary), Mr J Jooste (Researcher), and Ms A Zindlani (Committee Assistant).
- The aim and objective of the oversight visit was to conduct oversight by highlighting the fact that rhino poaching has become a significant challenge to the Department of Environmental Affairs, escalating to over 1000 poaching incidents per year in the last three years. The combatting of rhino poaching is a complex challenge, requiring an integrated approach that includes the input and support of a number of State departments and entities. The committee has identified the problem of rhino poaching as a key issue in its strategic planning, but to date has not been briefed on the matter by the Department. This workshop will bring the committee up to date on the fight against poaching, the current actions taken by the relevant departments and the way forward.
- This trip was also meant to be part of the induction programme of the Committee, as all Committee members were new to the Portfolio.
2. Meetings and Site Visits
2.1. Background of the Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park (KNP) is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and covers an area of approximately 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in north-eastern South Africa, extending 360 kilometres long (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres wide (40 mi) from east to west. The protected areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and became South Africa's first national park in 1926. The KNP remains one of the largest national parks in the world, with its administrative headquarters of KNP is situated in Skukuza.
To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique, which now forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. The park is also part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, this is an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the "Biosphere"). In total the park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps.
2.1. Presentation by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on
Rhino Poaching within the KNP.
The meeting was chaired by the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Land & Mineral Resources, Mr OJ Sefako.
The presentation by the DEA highlighted the following developments with regards to the profile of poaching incursions into the Kruger National Park:
- The Park has a 1000 km border which is very difficult to patrol and safeguard effectively. While the initial poaching effort in the Kruger had a very strong cross-border characteristic, recent trends show and increased effort (49 percent of incursions) being directed towards the Southern and South African border of the Park. The delegation was informed that the influence of Mozambican nationals is still evident in current poaching trends, but that only about 40 percent of poaching attempts originated from Mozambique at present.
- The topic of arrests and their impacts on the poaching effort is important to highlight. It was estimated that there is a pool of up to 5000 people willing to engage in poaching activity residing around the borders of the Park. This highlights the need for public engagement and awareness campaigns as an integral part of the anti-poaching effort since the large increase in the numbers of arrests (83 percent increase) have not deterred the poaching effort (27 percent increase). It was estimated by Park management that roughly 4300 poachers entered into the Kruger National Park last year, averaging 3 incursions per day.
- During t6he public hearings of 2012, the Department was still in the process of devising a response to the poaching challenge. At the workshop, the committee was briefed on how this work has resulted in the development of a multi-departmental response that includes the Departments of Environmental Affairs (Including SANParks), Private owners and private security firms, The SAPS, and DIRCO. The latter plays an important role in the multi-lateral engagement required to address the end destinations of poached rhino horn.
- The presentation revealed an impressive and dedicated response within the Park, but also highlighted the massive challenges remaining with regards to the need for improved international collaboration, community engagement, the continued development of joint anti-poaching efforts with neighbouring countries and improved organized-crime intelligence. Strategic partnerships have to be strengthened and need to be inclusive of urban and rural communities, private and provincial reserves, the hospitality industry, farm occupants and informal settlements.
- The significant value of rhino horn was again highlighted as a major contributing factor to the risk of rhino poaching. There is a relatively high level of unemployment for inhabitants of settlements surrounding the Park and this creates a significant challenge. Associated with this challenge is the relatively low success rate to date with disrupting the illicit wildlife supply chain. Poachers are the most commonly arrested level of this supply chain, with few arrests of brokers and coordinators of poaching in South Africa or sellers in destination countries.
The Committee was briefed on aspects of the anti-poaching initiative in Mozambique, and the need to curb the illicit trade value chain that includes rhino horn and ivory. Prior to the site visits, the presentation was ended with some feedback regarding the impact that rhino poaching was having on rhino populations, the anti-poaching staff of the Park as well as the cost of the anti-poaching effort. From the presentation it was clear that the Department is providing a strong response to the poaching threat, even though a lack of equipment and a relatively small staff component does pose challenges.
- Site visit and engagement with the DEA and members of the Joint Anti – Poaching Initiative
The site visit was a field trip, taking members of the Committee (by helicopter) to an actual crime scene where members witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by poachers and how the crime scene is secured and investigated by the joint task team, gathering any and all information / data / evidence which will assist in the possible apprehensions of the perpetrators and prevention of any future incidents. On the return, the delegation / members were given a tour of the joint operations center, where the park rangers together with other intelligence and enforcement agencies plan, discuss and execute joint operations in the fight against rhino poaching.
During discussion the following issues / aspects were highlighted and discussed:
- Legislation – Members of the delegation enquired how they could assist with legislation that would assist the department in the fight against poaching. The DEA responded that currently, multiple pieces of legislations from different departments are being used in a multiparty approach where poachers, the middle men and the syndicate heads are charged for numerous legal transgressions such poaching of wildlife, unlawful possession of firearms, possession of stolen vehicles, trespassing, possession of unexplained proceeds such as cash, houses and cars, etc.
The DEA further informed the delegation that the department, at its expense has just held a training workshop with senior magistrates, in an attempt to familiarise them with environmental laws and how they should be interpreted and implemented. The aim of the workshop was also to show the judiciary how these poaching cases have bearing on organized crime and what devastation is caused to the countries tourism and economic development sector.
- Funding – The delegation also enquired as to whether or not the budget allocation of the DEA for the anti-rhino poaching programme is adequate and where the bulk of the funding is coming from. The head of the rangers / anti-poaching unit explained that the budget allocation for the anti-rhino poaching initiative is not nearly what it should be and that the unit is heavily funded donor funds, such as the joint operations center which was built and equipped with funds received from Germany.
- Community engagement – The rangers / anti-poaching unit were asked what type of interaction exists between them and the neighboring communities. The head of the anti-poaching unit explained that the anti-rhino poaching initiative cannot be won from inside the park alone and that in order to address the situation properly, the initiative had to be taken outside of the park, essentially working from outside the park inwards. It was explained that the KNP together has embarked on an education campaign, educating local communities of the long term benefits of protecting the animals (not only rhinos) of the KNP. Local communities are taught / educated that protecting the animals will benefit all in terms of job creation, investment, community development opposed to the money made through poaching, which will last only as long as the last rhino is alive. What happens after all the rhinos have been killed, how will they then benefit.
- Information sharing – The delegation was informed that a good working relations existed between all those involved in the multi departmental task team and that information is shared on a daily bases and during operational briefings. The delegation was further informed that this type of information sharing also extends beyond the borders of the KNP, as it forms the bases of meetings with other provincial parks and their various anti-poaching units / initiatives.
Information is also shared with police organized crime units operating outside of the KNP, as well with the courts and the South African Revenue Service.
- Equipment – Referring back to the delegations initial question pertaining to budget allocations, the department explained that the cost of equipment and technology to stay ahead of the poachers will be high and that the IPZ implementation will be costing the rhino anti-poaching initiative R 250 000 000. The DEA explained that funding received from international donors are ring fenced for things such as the operations center, advanced technology and equipment and weapons.
During interactions and discussions with various members of the anti-poaching unit, it was discovered that although the multi task team working in the KNP have good working relations, this was not always the case outside the boundaries of KNP. One such incident would be where the KNP anti-poaching unit purchased 100 rifle from Argentina to replenish their ageing armory, only to be denied import permits and licenses by the Central Firearms Register (CFR), despite being a National Department with an enforcement and anti-poaching unit.
All the above happened after the South African National Defense Force surrendered approximately 600 brand new rifles (surplus stock) to the CFR, and where the KNP requested that some of these weapons be transfer to the KNP armory. The rationale behind the request was why could one national department not benefit and have to incur unnecessary expenses if another had resources and equipment they no longer needed or used. This request was also declined by CFR, despite being the same rifles used by the KNP anti-poaching unit.
- Corruption – The delegation further questioned the department about corruption and what steps were being taken. The committee was informed that all personal involved with the anti-poaching have to undergo integrity testing / evaluation, including management and that it is now compulsory in the employment contract of new recruits and employees. The DEA admitted that in the last five years, two employees were involved with poachers and that they were subsequently dismissed, charged and sentenced.
- Park Security – Members of the delegation commented on the level of security employed at the entrances to the park, such as the Kruger gate. The department explained that KNP was essentially a tourist attraction and that should extreme security measures be put in place, it could possible deter potential tourist wanting to visit the park. The department further explained that it would also prefer to keep its anti-poaching initiate covert and that it is for that reason they have decided to fight, together with the multi departmental taskforce, the war on poachers from the outside by disrupting syndicate operation and educating local communities about the shortfalls of entertaining and collaborating with poachers.
- Rendering of rhino horns obsolete – The department did explain that the veterinarians at KNP have investigated and experimented with the possibility of rendering rhino horns obsolete for human consumption and other purposes by contaminating the horn. This experiment proved unsuccessful.
- Recommendations made by the Department of Environmental Affairs
The DEA stated that the ultimate objective in the fight against rhino poaching would be to devalue of the horn, decreasing the demand for ivory horns. But, until then, the DEA recommended that:
- A permanent, full time court be established within KNP, to deal only with environmental crimes committed within the borders of the KNP;
- No bail should be granted by the courts to anyone charged with poaching and suspected of being involved in poaching;
- When sentenced by the courts, all those involved with poaching should receive the harshest sentences possible and their assets seized;
- A extradition agreement should be signed with Mozambique;
- South Africa should provide assistance to the Mozambique government to implement their own environmental legislation.
- Overview presentation by the Department of Environmental Affairs on their respective programmes
Programme 1: Administration
This programme provide strategic leadership, management and support services to the department in order to facilitate environmental education, awareness and effective cooperative governance, and international relations. The -programme is also important as it plays a role in the improvement of the profile of and support for environmental issues on an ongoing basis. This is achieved through the building of environmental awareness, education and capacity, and creating effective partnerships to promote cooperative governance and encourage local government support. The programme is further also responsible for the enhancement of sector monitoring and evaluation, and international cooperation that supports South Africa’s environmental development priorities such as the rhino poaching challenge.
Important relevant sub-programmes worth highlighting include:
• Environmental Advisory Services provides strategic environmental advisory and implementation support services to national and international environmental commitments in terms of international agreements under the auspices of the United Nations.
• Environmental Sector Coordination provides coordinated environmental objectives into the strategic planning instruments of government at a national, provincial and local level.
Programme 2: Legal, Authorisations and Compliance
The programme is designed to promote the environmental legal regime and licensing system and is required to ensure that the possible negative impacts of development activities and patterns are minimised, mitigated or managed through effective environmental impact assessment decisions. The programme also strives to improve the level of compliance with environmental legislation by increasing the number of inspections of facilities located in environmentally sensitive areas, and increasing the number of environmental management inspectors trained.
Important sub-programmes of programme 2 include:
• Legal, Authorisations and Compliance Management provides for the overall administration and functioning of the programme by carrying out its planning and performance management functions.
• Compliance Monitoring ensures effective compliance with environmental legislation by undertaking compliance inspections on all authorisations issued by the department.
• Integrated Environmental Authorisations ensures that the potentially negative impact of significant new developments is avoided, reduced or managed; and establishes mechanisms to ensure the effective coordination of environmental impact assessments and other regulatory authorisations.
• Enforcement undertakes criminal and administrative enforcement action in response to non-compliance with environmental impact and pollution legislation, and provides capacity development and support services to the environmental management inspectorate.
• Corporate Legal Support and Litigation provides quality and timely corporate legal support, litigation management support, and education on legal compliance to ensure that the department complies with legislation relating to its core business.
• Law Reform and Appeals processes appeals received in terms of the legislation administered by the department, investigates appeals, sources responses from all parties, conducts research and advises the minister on appeals; coordinates the law reform programme in the department; drives the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s subcommittee on law reform; drafts legislation; comments on draft legislation; and advises on law reform issues.
Programme 3: Oceans and Coasts
This programme promotes the efficient management of, and provide strategic leadership on oceans and coastal conservation. It further strengthens the national science programmes for integrated ocean and coastal management by:
• conducting research annually to determine baseline information for biodiversity species and priority habitats within South Africa’s exclusive economic zone and associated large marine ecosystems; and
• supporting bio-discovery and assessing marine protected areas through cataloguing new or unknown species, with an emphasis on benthic invertebrate species, on an ongoing basis.
The programme is required to ensure the effective management of the ocean and coastal environment through finalising the White Paper on National Environmental Management of the Ocean by the end of the current financial year as well as by ensuring response preparedness for oil spills along South Africa’s coast through a review of 14 of the 25 oil pollution response plans by 2015/16. Oceans and Coasts is also tasked with improving the conservation status of marine top predator populations, especially seals and the 12 South African seabird species, by performing annual monitoring and research of behaviour for baseline information and by providing appropriate management advice based on population numbers as required.
Programme 4: Climate Change and Air Quality
A key activity of the Department is to formulate policies, and administer legislation and implement systems to improve regulation, monitoring and compliance regarding climate change and air quality. An efficient climate change response strategy is required in order to ensure an effective response to the impacts of climate change by building climate change adaptive capacity, socioeconomic resilience and emergency response capacity by the end of the current financial year. He programme also support South Africa’s contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere by making recommendations on aligning 4 climate change sectoral policies and plans by 2015/16. Three of these sector plans have to be finalised by the end of the current financial year.
As a signatory of a number of bi- and multi-lateral agreements on Climate Change, the programme is also require to enable South Africa to meet its national and international obligations by developing a national monitoring and evaluation system for climate change by 2015/16. Lastly it must ensure that there is a continuous improvement in ambient air quality throughout the country by implementing air quality management plans in priority hotspot areas, and providing legislative support and leadership to provincial and local authorities performing air quality management functions over the MTEF period.
Programme 5: Biodiversity and Conservation
This programme, together with Climate Change, is most likely to receive oversight attention from the Select Committee. The programme ensures the regulation and management of biodiversity, heritage and conservation matters in a manner that facilitates sustainable economic growth and development. It further has to improve conservation and biodiversity management through the safeguarding of ecosystems, species and genetic diversity, as well as minimising threats to ecological sustainability. The expansion of the area of land and sea under conservation management control is a major target of this programme. Lastly, the programme promotes and enhance livelihoods through access to, and the fair and equitable sharing of, benefits arising from the use of biological resources by developing a system for the transformation of the biodiversity sector by 2016/17.
Subprogrammes of biodiversity and conservation include:
• Biodiversity and Conservation Management provides for the overall management and administration of activities in the programme.
• Biodiversity Planning and Management manages, protects and conserves South Africa’s biological resources and ecosystems for human wellbeing and sustainable development, and develops and implements programmes and processes aimed at the protection and mitigation of threats to biodiversity at the species and ecosystem levels.
• Biodiversity Monitoring and Evaluation provides specialist scientific, intergovernmental and legislative support services in relation to biodiversity; and monitors, evaluates, analyses, negotiates and advises on national and international trends in biodiversity conservation.
• Protected Areas Systems Management oversees the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive, effectively managed and ecologically representative national and cross border systems of protected areas. This entails ensuring the effective management of transfrontier conservation areas; developing and overseeing the implementation of protected area policies and legislation; ensuring compliance with and the enforcement of protected area legislation; and promoting the participation and beneficiation of local communities in the establishment, development and management of protected areas.
• iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority transfers funds to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority to cover its personnel and operational expenditure.
• South African National Parks transfers funds to South African National Parks to cover its personnel and operational expenditure.
• South African National Biodiversity Institute transfers funds to the South African National Biodiversity Institute to cover its personnel and operational expenditure.
• Biodiversity Monitoring and Evaluation is responsible for sector wide biodiversity monitoring and evaluation, and coordinating biodiversity related multilateral environmental agreements through the management of the science policy interface.
• Biodiversity Economy and Sustainable Use promotes and regulates sustainable and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of biological resources; and facilitates the growth of a nature based biodiversified economy through appropriate policies, legislation and programmes.
Programme 6: Environmental Programmes
The final programme of the department is geared towards the implementation of the expanded public works programme and green economy projects in the environmental sector. Through this process, the Department promotes the empowerment of designated communities by creating work opportunities and full time equivalent jobs in environmental projects through the implementation of expanded public works programme projects over the MTEF period. Projects are designed to restore and maintain the structure and function of vegetation to contribute to ecosystem services and to facilitate the transition to a growth path that is low in carbon and natural resource efficient by facilitating the implementation of green initiative projects over the MTEF period.
Subprogrammes of the environmental programmes include:
• Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme identifies, plans and implements projects under the expanded public works programme through the use of labour intensive methods targeting the unemployed, youth, women and people with disabilities; and empowers small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) during project implementation processes.
• Working for Water and Working on Fire ensures that South Africa addresses its responsibilities relating to water resource management, biological diversity and the functioning of natural systems; and ensures that meaningful livelihood opportunities are supported for those employed on these programmes.
• Green Fund invests in projects to protect the environment by working with the donor community and the private sector.
• Environmental Programmes Management contributes to sustainable development and livelihoods, and green and inclusive economic growth. This includes facilitating skills development, creating employment, managing natural resources and developing infrastructure.
• Information Management and Sector Coordination aims to provide effective and efficient support to environmental programmes to stimulate the potential for economic growth in the environment sector, and to maximise the sustainable utilisation of environmental resources.
- Issues raised by the delegation during their engagement with the DEA on their programmes
After the department made their presentation, the delegation engaged the department on the seven programmes of the department, namely Administration; Legal, Authorisation and compliance; Oceans and Coasts; Climate Change & Air Quality Management; Biodiversity & Conservation; Environmental Programmes; and Chemicals & Waste Management.
The following are areas of concerned raised by the delegation;
- Youth development – The DEA was questioned about its youth programme, specifically how the youth were picked, their provincial / geographical location and how programmes were implemented in the various provinces. Furthermore, the delegation tried to establish the duration of these programmes, whether or not these training courses were accredited courses and are schools encouraged to send leaners to be part of these youth development programmes.
The DEA responded, stating that not all courses were accredited and that there are in total approximately 900 programmes (100 per province) being run and that full statistics and geographical spread of programmes will be forwarded to Committee.
- Working for fire programme – The delegation enquired whether or not the department was liaising / training local municipalities how to deal with fires, especially in informal settlements. In light of municipalities’ lack of budget to adequately fight fires, the DEA was asked whether or not fire awareness campaigns / programmes were being run in the various provinces, especially those prone to sporadic veld fires.
The department informed the Committee that close collaboration existed between the department and the municipal disaster management teams. The department explained that their expertise was fighting veld fires and not structural, but have on occasion assisted municipalities with shack fires. The DEA further explained that education awareness programmes are initiated at various schools and that the training of rural villages was of paramount importance to the department, as they were regarded as the first line of defence in fighting veld fires. Approximately 5 000 people to date have thus far been trained under the Working for Fire programme.
- Investigation of helicopter crash – The Committee questioned the department about the recent spate of helicopter crashes that claimed the lives of 4 people while fighting fires. The department explained that during the past 21 years there have been no recorded fatalities and with the sudden loss of 4 people within a year, the working for fire programme was dealt a serious blow and that until the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has concluded its investigation all helicopters were grounded and that nobody was allowed to discuss any of the incidents as the matter is sub Judi cay.
- Furniture made by DEA from invasive plants and trees – The delegation applauded the department for their efforts in utilising invasive vegetation to build furniture and coffins for the needy, enquiring whether or not it would be possible for the department to open a manufacturing plant.
The DEA explained that the programme of utilising alien invasive vegetation to build furniture such as school desks and coffins started with the idea of making coffins for those who were unable to afford even the most basic of coffins provided by funeral homes. The aim of the programme was to provide indigent / extremely poor families the opportunity to bury their loved ones with dignity. The programme eventually won a World Bank Award.
The department also informed the Committee that after the successful manufacturing of coffins, the programme extended to the manufacturing of desks for schools and office and garden furniture that is utilised by most national parks.
- Land fill sites – The delegation raised and discussed the issue of land fill sites, attempting to ascertain how many authorised land fill sites there were per province. The delegation further enquired as to how the DEA was addressing and enforcing the issue of illegal dumping, especially medical waste.
The department explained that small teams of inspectors and enforcement officials are sent to provinces on a regular bases to conduct workshops in the form of site inspections where departmental and municipal officials discuss and address various challenges experienced. The biggest problem, according to the DEA are the illegal dumping sites in KZN and the erection of illegal structures in the Eastern Cape.
- Rehabilitation of mines – The department was questioned about having mechanisms in place to deal with environmental issues pertaining to mines and whether or not DEA has an amicable working relation with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).
The DEA confirmed that a working relationship exists between them and the DMR and that they are in the process of strengthening existing legislation so that it is easily implementable, monitored and evaluated. The department also informed the delegation that both departments are currently training people to serve in the compliance and enforcement arm of both departments.
- Streamlining of EIA processes and their timeframes – Referring to page 8 of the presentation, the delegation wished to know the progress of the various EIA’s and where the department will publish the report.
The department assured the Committee that a full list of all EIA’s will be forwarded to the Committee, indicating the progress and timeline for each.
- Climate change issues – The delegation enquired about climate change and South Africa’s involvement, attempting to ascertain whether our participation is required and whether or not SA had the budget to host, attend and participate in the programme.
The Committee was informed that our participation does not bind us to any agreement and that our participation is purely voluntary. The DEA did however mention that if SA wished to retain its leadership status in the developing world, SA would have to comply. The department further stated that the DEA will not be receiving any funds from treasury for the climate change programme and that all activities in this programme is done with donor funds.
- Fracking – The delegation requested the department to explain their position on fracking and what they would perceive to be the way forward. The DEA informed the delegation that the DEA and the DMR has commissioned the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct an EIA study on fracking, which is to take about 2 years. The department therefore stated that until the study is completed, they will not be in a position to comment. The DEA however did inform the Committee that the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is currently working with the CSIR on the biological impact of fracking on the environment.
- Wild life hunting licenses – In light of recent newspaper articles pertaining to hunting, the delegation wanted to ascertain who was responsible for the issuing of these permits. The department informed the committee that hunting permits are controlled and issued by the various provincial departments and that the national department exercises control over the national parks. The DEA did however inform the delegation that there are forums and structures where issues of wild life, hunting and conservation are discussed between the national and provincial governments.
- Expansion of protected areas – Members of the delegation enquired how protected areas are to be expanded if development has already taken place on some of the land, how the norms and standards would be applied. The DEA explained that the departmental targets include all protected areas and conservation areas, which means that the portion of land within a protected area, already developed, will be treated as a conservation area.
The following recommendations were raised by the Department and members of the Committee during the visit to the Kruger National Park and are worth repeating in this section:
The DEA needs support in shifting the fight against rhino poaching from the current anti-poaching enforcement focus to a point where activities aimed at devaluing the horn, and decreasing the viability of and demand for ivory and rhino horn trade dominate. To this end, the following can be promoted:
- The anti-poaching budget at present is not insignificant but due to the expanse over which poaching must be combatted and the level of technology required, is not nearly enough. Apart from motivating for increased financial contribution towards the Department’s anti-poaching commitments, the committee can consider raising with the relevant committees the current challenges experienced with the Central Firearms Register, both in terms of import licenses as well as the refusal to allow SANParks access to surplus military stock.
- Legislative and judicial strengthening of the fight against poaching through the establishment of a permanent court dedicated to wildlife crime within the KNP;
- While the Department assured the Committee that the working relationship between the various State Departments and Entities involved in the fight against poaching is sound, there is room for improved anti-poaching capacity within individual provinces and especially provincial conservation areas close to Kruger National Park. The Committee can direct oversight activity towards reviewing the financial and staff challenges of provincial nature conservation structures within provinces affected by rhino poaching.
- Toughened bail conditions and more severe sentences proposed for poaching suspects and those convicted;
- Renewed focus on the prosecution, through targeted law enforcement efforts and asset forfeiture, of the middle men and syndicate heads that at present are not significantly affected by the anti-poaching efforts taking place within the Kruger National Park;
- The seizure of assets associated with poaching or bought with the proceeds of wildlife crime such as rhino poaching;
- Improved cooperation with counterparts in Mozambique, including the signing of an extradition agreement and assistance to the Mozambique government towards developing and implementing their own environmental legislation;
- Although SANParks insists that the main security focus at their entry points into the Park should not detract from the tourism experience, the reality of the poaching challenge is that weak security at gates will remain to pose a challenge to the anti-poaching effort and it is worth encouraging the Department to develop a workable solution for this challenge.
Report to be considered.
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