Buthelezi awarded for his rhino conservation work

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The Hon. Prince Buthelezi.

Alex Rose-Innes

The winners of the Rhino Conservation Awards were announced. A keynote was delivered by Minister Molewa addressing the rhino horn trade.  The Honourable Prince Buthelezi offered a heartfelt address when accepting his award.

“I am honoured by this recognition of my life’s work in conservation. All that I have done for the past six decades to protect our natural heritage has been done with an eye on the future. I have keenly felt this responsibility, first as a traditional leader and then as a leader in politics and governance.”

“When a country is waging a liberation struggle, giving attention to wildlife is seldom considered a priority. But to me, it was important. Because I wanted more than a political victory for South Africa. I wanted a rich inheritance.”

“The loss of our rangers to the bullets of criminals is a stark reminder of the severity of the threat posed by the transitional illicit wildlife trade. Our abundant biodiversity has made us a target for unscrupulous gangs with little regard for the long-term consequences of their actions. Luckily for us, for every criminal syndicate lacking in conscience, we have men and women with deep and abundant love for this country and its heritage,” said Dr Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs.

“I would like to turn at this point to the issue of the commercial trade in rhino horn. I hope I will serve to clear up some misconceptions around this issue.

Since the conclusion of the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES in Johannesburg last year, as well as the Constitutional Court retrospectively setting aside the moratorium on the domestic trade in rhino horn in April, we have been hard at work. South Africa remains committed to a well-regulated process that manages the trade in endangered species such as rhino in line with domestic legislation as well as all CITES provisions.

This includes firstly the release for public comment of a set of draft regulatory measures focusing primarily on the domestic trade, but also including specific provisions relating to the export of rhino horn for non-commercial purposes. Secondly, we are currently developing an electronic database that will capture details on all individual rhino horns in private and government-owned stockpiles as well as all newly acquired horns. We are in the process of conducting an audit of all existing stockpiles of rhino horn to ensure that the country has full and accurate information on the number of horns in South Africa at any given time as well as the registered owner of each horn. This is vital to prevent the smuggling of illegally-obtained horn out of the country.

We as government are doing everything within our means to ensure that we have closed any possible loopholes that could pave the way for a circumvention of CITES regulations. We have not been resting on our laurels – far from it! My department has a clear mandate in terms of both  the Constitution and NEMBA and thankfully, we now have systems in place that represent a vast improvement on where we were a couple of years ago.”