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Wildlife has a new protector – in the form of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
High-level officials met last week in a multilateral caucus to address the wave of poaching that has burgeoned across the African continent. Defence and service chiefs from the Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe defence forces, as well as senior officials from the departments of Police, Justice, Environmental Affairs and Intelligence, came together on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park in the fourth meeting of its kind, held in Mpumalanga.
South African Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, said countries in the region had adopted the SADC Law Enforcement and Anti-poaching Strategy (LEAP Strategy) to fight wildlife trafficking. “The illegal killing and trafficking of our wildlife undermines our investments in the protection and conservation of our natural heritage. It is for this reason that we, as the Southern African countries have, after much deliberation, adopted the LEAP Strategy, which now needs to be implemented.”
The strategy aims to combat poaching and trafficking by activating a common approach to combat illicit transnational trade in wildlife. “It has been almost a decade since rhino poaching started intensifying and increasing in the sub-region (South Africa). Through our efforts to combat the scourge, we have learnt lessons and have developed best practices that we can share with each other,” said Molewa. “The South African government, at a Cabinet level, approved an Integrated Strategic Management Approach for the protection and management of rhino in the country.” Other objectives of the strategy include working with communities adjacent to national and provincial parks, and broader awareness programmes, for them to realise the need to protect wildlife from poachers.
Presentations were made by SANParks, covering current trends, challenges and crime statistics; and the SA Navy which covered environmental matters, current maritime trends and challenges as well as crime statistics, presumably for poaching and illegal harvesting of resources including abalone.