Greater Lebombo Conservancy on cards to curb rhino poaching

Map view of Greater Lebombo.

At the beginning of February this year, South Africa's minister of water and environmental affairs, Edna Molewa met Mozambique's minister of tourism, Fernando Sumbana Jnr to find a solution for the rhino poaching problems in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and surrounds. Kruger lost 252 rhinos to poachers in 2011.

The meeting was also attended by top government officials in the respective departments of both countries; Mr Fundisile Mketeni the deputy director general (DDG) of biodiversity in the department of environmental affairs in South Africa, Dr David Mabunda the chief executive officer (CEO) of South African National Parks (SANParks) and Dr Bartolomeu Soto the head of The Transfrontier Conservation Areas Unit in the ministry of tourism in Mozambique.

Molewa stressed that the poaching in Kruger has reached unacceptable levels and, because the Park borders Mozambique, she has to consider the following to reduce the incursions into Kruger:

  • Adding 150 field rangers to increase law enforcement officers in the KNP to 650;
  • Requesting the South African government to increase military presence in the KNP;
  • Improving coordinated national efforts to increase intelligence gathering, and;
  • The possibility of strengthening the border fence between Massingir and Komatipoort.

Minister Sumbana says his government is pondering legislation that will elevate the offence of wildlife poaching to a criminal offence carrying heavier sentencing rather than the current offence of damage to property.

He says a new elite highly trained national anti-poaching unit has been formed and the first recruits will be graduating shortly and deployed in priority poaching areas.

Dr Mabunda had recently visited Dr Soto to discuss the idea of including the 220, 000 hectare Greater Lebombo Conservancy to act as an effective buffer to link the KNP southern section with Mozambique.

The idea has since morphed into a Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) similar to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP).

Article 3(2) of the signed treaty envisioned the TFCA in Mozambique to include "the Massingir and Corumana areas, as well as the interlinking regions" thus creating an immediate framework for bilateral between the two countries for the inclusion of the Greater Lebombo Conservancy.

The two Ministers agreed to cooperate bilaterally to ensure that the planned TFCA was realized and concluded speedily.

Drs Mabunda and Soto reported the high support for the TFCA by the various stakeholders and land users in Mozambique particularly the private concessionaires.

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