Maputo — Mozambican and South African ministers have held discussions in Pretoria on how to fight against rhino poaching, the official South African agency "BuaNews" reported on Wednesday.
The delegations were headed by Mozambican Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana and the South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa.
There has been a sharp increase in rhino poaching in South Africa over the past three years. 122 rhinos were poached in 2009, 333 in 2010 and 449 in 2011. A majority of the rhinos poached are killed in the Kruger National Park, which borders on Mozambique. In 2011, the Kruger Park lost 252 rhinos.
Some of the poachers are known to be Mozambicans. Thus in January a court in the South African town of Phalaborwa sentenced three Mozambicans, named as Anselmo Baloi, Ismael Baloi and Jawaki Nkuna to 25 years imprisonment for rhino poaching.
On 11 January two Mozambicans, suspected of poaching rhinos, were shot dead inside the Kruger Park in a clash with game rangers.
It is suspected that the two were part of a gang responsible for the slaughter of eight rhinos on 10 January. After finding the dehorned rhino carcasses, the rangers set out on the trail of the poachers.
At her meeting with Sumbana, Molewa stressed that poaching in the Kruger Park had escalated to such unacceptable levels that South Africa urgently required the full cooperation and support of Mozambique if the killing of rhino was to be significantly reduced.
Prior to the meeting she had announced various measures that are under consideration to deal with poachers. These include recruiting an additional 159 rangers to bring the total in the Kruger Park to 650, and a possible increased military presence within the park.
She has also called for improvements in intelligence gathering, and has suggested strengthening 150 kilometres of border fence. The apartheid regime built an electrified fence along the border with Mozambique, but since the end of apartheid much of the fence has been removed of knocked down by elephants. The current proposal is to electrify the fence, but not to lethal levels.
Sumbana stressed that Mozambique is committed to conservation, and is "currently 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."
Sumbana said He added that a new, highly trained National Anti-poaching Unit has been formed and the first recruits will be graduating shortly. Sumbana said they will be deployed in priority poaching areas.
He also said that the Mozambican government has passed a decree creating a flexible state-owned conservation agency along the lines of South African National Parks (SANParks). "This will assist with management effectiveness and allow greater flexibility in sourcing funding than is currently the case," he said.