N West holds rhino conference

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The North West has lost over 50 rhinos last year alone in both private and state game lodges. Stakeholders at the first provincial rhino poaching summit in the Pilanesberg National Reserve, near Rustenburg, say this is unacceptable.

They say that the only way to curb the scourge is to involve everyone, including members of the community, particularly those who stay near game farms.

The summit, the first of its nature in the province, follows the death Environmental Affairs minister, Edna Molewa, a major advocate in combating rhino poaching.

Although the crime seems to be decreasing nationally, poaching on provincial state and private land continues to increase in the North West.

In 2017, the province lost 96 rhinos to poaching, of which 68 were from all four provincial government ranging reserves, and 28 from private game farms. At the current rate of loss, the province is likely to lose approximately 80 rhinos to poaching this year.

“You find private sector dealing with it on its own way, government dealing with it on its way, that is why we are saying let’s enforce and come together and say what will be the best method if we are together, pull resources together, pull ides together and make sure that everything that we do, we do it with one vision, with one goal in mind – with dealing with that both in the private owned farms and also in government,” says Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development MEC, Manketse Tlhape.

The North West Parks Board says there’s a need for everyone, especially those who live near game farms, to take part in combating rhino poaching before it’s too late.

“Everyone need to be aware of the gravity of this issue and that we are facing a threat of losing rhinos from the province. we don’t want to get to that day where we see the last rhino being poached in the province,” says Pieter Nel, acting Chief Conservation Officer at the North West Parks Board.

Deon Strydom owns a private lodge within the Pilanesberg National Reserve. Strydom says they were even forced to form a trust aimed at combating rhino poaching, due to a high number of incidents.

“Pilanesberg has been hit very had in the last two years and yes regarding that we just said we want to assist from the private owners and we have lodges in the black rhino within the Pilanesburg and about eight years ago we formed, a conservation trust not just to anti-poaching but also to conservation projects.”

The summit is expected to conclude on Thursday afternoon — where resolutions will be tabled as a way forward to enable both government and public game farmers to work together.