How SA's young Environmental Monitors are fighting wildlife crimes

2018-02-21 11:43 - Kavitha Pillay
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White rhino calf with mother. (Photo: Henk Kruger/ ANA)

Cape Town - The Environmental Monitors (EM) Programme, with 1 659 young South Africans participants, aims to increase conservation in South African National Parks (SANParks), as well as provincial and private nature reserves.

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), participants operate throughout the country with SANParks’ Biodiversity Social Projects (BSP) as the implementing agent, and have achieved progress in conservation through patrols, biodiversity monitoring and environmental education and awareness in communities.

DEA has applauded the work of a group of EMs, also known as Maeba (Doves), "for their impeccable work programme geared towards fighting the scourge of rhino poaching in the Hoedspruit area".

DEA Minister, Dr Edna Molewa says the initiative has "significantly contributed" to the fight against rhino poaching.

“Last year alone, at least 1 659 Environmental Monitors were deployed in rhino poaching hotspots to assist with environmental protection. These Environmental Monitors will be further empowered to become Rhino Ambassadors in these rhino poaching hotspots,” she says.

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The programme has assisted with arrests, investigations and sentencing of poachers. It has also contributed to reducing wildlife poaching by 50% and snaring of animals by 76% in public and private reserves.

However, with respect to curbing rhino poaching in particular, greater effort needs to be made as Molewa's recent update on poaching in SA revealed that 2017 saw a small decrease in the number of rhinos poached, with the total standing at 1 028 - only 26 less than 2016.

Addressing wildlife crimes

According to DEA, the programme which is part of the government’s efforts to address wildlife crimes, is currently funded by the DEA’s Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) "to the tune of more than R235 million".

Molewa says the programme is part of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which ensures biodiversity conservation while creating job opportunities and providing skills development.

“Since its inception in 2012, the EMs Programme has employed and trained more than 1 659 beneficiaries, with at least 138 of them having exited the programme into greener jobs,” she adds.

DEA says that in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, EMs work between Kruger National Park on the eastern side and the Blyde Canyon in the western side, an area referred to as the K2C Biosphere Region, which is a UNESCO ratified site. "EMs are deployed in groupings to assist with environmental education, environmental monitoring, research support and security operations," says DEA.

Host institutions where the EMs assist with research, awareness and training within local communities include the University of Pretoria’s Veterinary School; the Southern African Wildlife College; the Wits Rural Facility and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON), adds DEA.

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