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Minister Edna Molewa celebrates South Africa's game rangers

Jul 31, 2017
Minister Edna Molewa celebrates South Africa's game rangers

In a speech delivered on her behalf by the Eastern Cape MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Sakhumzi Somyo, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, on Monday paid tribute to South African National Parks (SANParks) rangers, who risk their lives every day to protect the country's biodiversity.

The commemorations took place at the Mountain Zebra National Park, which also observed its 80th anniversary celebrations in July. Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP) is situated just outside Cradock in the Eastern Cape. It was proclaimed on 3 July 1937 for the purpose of protecting a remnant population of the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra). 

The down-listing of the Cape Mountain zebra species off the endangered list at COP17 last year signalled 80 years of successfully conserving this species within the Park, her department said.   

The Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment was officially declared by Minister Molewa  on 1 April 2016, involving 66 landowners and spanning an area of 286 343ha. The Protected Environment is situated between Graaff-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda, Cradock and Pearston.

“Rangers in certain parts of South Africa face daily hardships in their efforts to protect many of our species, such as the elephant, rhino, cycad and abalone, from unscrupulous poachers.  Our country’s natural beauty derived from our enormous biodiversity is a key income generator and thus an important contributor to our economy through job creation and tourism. It is through the actions of these brave men and women, who risk their lives daily to protect our natural world and our many species,” said Dr Molewa.

World Ranger Day is supported by the International Rangers Federation, and is marked annually on the 31 July to acknowledge game rangers as dedicated guardians of the world’s natural heritage.

The Minister, in updating the successes linked to the implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros in South Africa earlier this month, highlighted the importance of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ community rhino ambassador’s programme saying emphasis is being placed on enhancing the community ranger model with a national career and roll-out plan.

In line with the decisions of the Rhino Conservation Lab, the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) ranger training curriculum is being finalised to improve the ability of rangers to deal with any situation that befalls them.

“I would like to salute our ranger corps for the work they do. They are our men and women on the frontline, keeping our precious natural resources safe. They put their lives on the line every day to keep our many species safe and on behalf of all South Africans I want to thank each and every one of you,” said the Minister.

Because South Africa is battling a threat against its wildlife on so many fronts, and spread across the expanses of the country, this has necessitated that almost the entire Ranger Corps has been converted to anti-poaching units. They are well trained and supported by canine units, small air wings, and relevant technology.

Tactical information management ensures the intelligent deployment of these units. This approach is also being followed by private rhino owners and close cooperation with them has become the norm.

The Minister says the Rhino Guardian project launched in the Kruger National Park in January 2017 as part of efforts to increase the black rhino population is being undertaken with the support of the Peace Parks Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund – South Africa.

“Our approach includes a priority response by task teams when incursions occur that could threaten black rhinos.  We have dedicated biological management and science support that use innovative techniques to inform efficient protection by our field rangers,” said Dr Molewa.

The Minister also paid tribute to the SANParks Honorary Rangers, thanking the volunteers for offering their free time to contribute to conservation and the elimination of wildlife crimes.

“The work done by these volunteers in their free time is an example that we can all follow.  As we remember those rangers across the world that have lost their lives protecting our natural heritage, let us follow their example by committing ourselves to working together  protect our wonderful world and thus ensure the survival of species of plants and wildlife for generations to come,” said the Minister.

Referring to Mountain Zebra National Park, MEC Somyo said that despite grappling with pressures of poverty, the communities surrounding the Park are highly supportive of government's conservation efforts.

A small herd of the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra survived in the area for the park that we are celebrating today," he said, adding that the park was also creating jobs for locals.

"This park has increased its permanent employment by 20%."

New cottages and chalets that have been built in the Park were also officially opened - they will be open to the public for bookings from September.