Edna Molewa launches Rhino project

FILE PICTURE:  Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

FILE PICTURE: Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.

Environment Minister Edna Molewa on Wednesday announced the official launch of the UNEP-GEF Rhino Project.

“The [project] is aimed at strengthening law enforcement capabilities to combat wildlife crime, with a specific focus on rhino,” she told reporters in Pretoria.

The co-operation agreement between the United Nations Environment Programme and her department was signed on May 8 this year.

Key partners include the SA Police Service, the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL), SANParks, CITES, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“The UNEP-GEF Rhino Project seeks to strengthen our law enforcement capabilities through improved forensic capacity, strengthened data gathering systems, and enhanced co-operation mechanisms at an international level,” Molewa said.

Speaking at the event, deputy director general legal authorisation, compliance and enforcement, Ishaam Abader, said forensic technology, which involved DNA sampling of rhino horns, would aid the prosecution of poachers and smugglers.

“The use of the forensic technology is actually for better prosecution. For example, if we can identify where a particular rhino came from using forensic technology, we can then assist in the prosecution of cases.”

Chief director enforcement Frances Craigie said the project would help build up a rhino DNA database.

“[The] VGL is already doing the analysis of DNA from rhino. What we are doing through this project is funding additional capacity in this laboratory. We are going to ensure that all the backlog samples [are worked away].”

Asked if this sampling involved the huge stockpiles of rhino horn in South Africa — according to reports, 19 tons of rhino horn are stockpiled, of which two tons are in private hands — she confirmed this was being done.

“They are already currently in the process of sampling the stockpiles. We’re right in the middle of sampling them.”

Many of the private stockpiles had already been sampled.

Molewa said GEF (the Global Environment Facility) had allocated US2.7 million to the project for use over the next four years.

The project’s focus was on the use of forensic technology to combat rhino poaching, information sharing and analysis among national law enforcement agencies, and co-operation and exchange of information at an international level.


today in print