Speaking at this function which included the Passing-out Parade of the newly recruited Rangers in the Kruger National Park (KNP), SANParks, Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda said the new recruits are coming at a critical time when the South African conservation agencies as well as private individuals are paying a high price with the senseless killings of the country's rhino population.
He said South Africa continues to suffer an alarming surge in commercial rhino poaching, driven by the insatiable appetite for rhino horn in Asian countries, where rising incomes have made it possible for a growing population to afford illegal rhino horn. The horn is desired because of an unfortunate superstition that attributes healing properties to rhino horn, despite modern scientific evidence to the contrary.
"It is for this reason that we need to denounce the killing of our animals by ensuring that we close up the syndicates who are enticing the poorer members of society to engage in criminal activities, recruiting them to be in the front line of these evil operations. It is therefore our hope that integration of these new recruits, who are members of our communities, with the current cream of the crop in the Ranger corps should signal our seriousness in winning the fight against rhino poaching."
"We believe that the passing-out of these 49 new recruits will step up the crime fighting ability against the brutal onslaught on our rhinos, as these new recruits will be adopting a multi-disciplinary approach and will draw skills and expertise from various law enforcement agency currently deployed in the fight against poaching."
He said, with the assistance from South Africa's corporate world, and the support we receive from the SANParks Honorary Rangers (a group of volunteers committed to conservation in support of SANParks), SANParks is managing to acquire some of the much needed equipment to effectively take the war to the poachers. "This is an indication that South Africa has realized that the fight against poaching will not only be defeated through the work of law enforcement agencies alone, but by a unified front 'United Against Poaching'."
He said this as he accepted a R 5 million cheque from UNITRANS Volkswagen & Audi in support of anti-poaching activities in the KNP. "The role played by corporate South Africa has been phenomenal and well appreciated as it will go a long way towards the realization of a stop to the killing of our rhino."
Dr Mabunda also applauded the Environmental Affairs Minister and her provincial counterparts for the establishment of a national unit and strategy that deals with the scourge of environmental crimes including poaching in national and provincial protected areas, as well as in private lands.
He also welcomed the assistance by the South African Government in the deployment of the SAPS and the military to patrol the 450 km national border on the eastern boundary of the KNP.
The parade was inspected by SANParks top rangers, Dr Mabunda, SANParks management, high ranking officials of the South African Police Services and South African National Defense Force border patrol units.
In conclusion, Dr Mabunda wished all the new recruits well in their mission and encouraged them to work with honour as they carry out their tasks in this fight. "We must let the poachers know that we will seek them out, we will find them and they will be dealt with accordingly. This is a war that we plan on winning," he warned.
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