The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa on Friday (25 January 2013) published the Biodiversity Management Plan for black rhinoceros (Diceros icornis) in Government Gazette No. 36096 for implementation.
The gazetting of the Management Plan is in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA), 2004 and was developed in accordance with the National Norms and Standards for the Development of Biodiversity Management Plans for Species (BMP-S) published in 2009.
The BMP-S allows for the monitoring and review of actions taken to preserve species in the wild amidst a changing environment. It also requires that, in terms of the NEMBA, all management plans compiled by conservation authorities are approved by the Minister.
The newly-published Plan also forms part of government's continued efforts to ensure the survival of South Africa's rhino population. It will contribute significantly to the management and conservation of black rhino, presently under threat from poachers.
The Conservation Plan for the Black Rhino, which forms the basis of the BMP for this species in South Africa, was jointly developed by South African members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Rhino Management Group to promote the development and long-term maintenance of viable populations of the various sub-species of African rhino in the wild. It was published for public comment in 2011.
The South African Rhino Management Group, which functions under the auspices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Rhino Specialist Group, is to manage the implementation of the Plan, including the legally required approval of management plans submitted by rhino conservation bodies for adoption by the government.
The Plan was developed essentially to ensure coordinated action in the identification of goals, the mechanisms to reach those goals, and evaluation of their success. The BMP for Black Rhino includes a long-term vision which envisages the continued existence of the global black rhino population through the continuation of viable populations of the indigenous rhino subspecies in natural habitats throughout South Africa.
The 10-year or short-term conservation goal is to achieve an average South African meta-population growth rate for the two indigenous subspecies of black rhino of at least 5% per annum. The aim is also to achieve meta-population sizes for the two subspecies of 3 060.
In terms of the BMP for Black Rhino, published on Friday, among the mechanisms required to successfully manage these iconic animals are biological management, monitoring for management, security and protection, coordination, capacity, sustainable use and economic and social sustainability.
Besides the achievement of a minimum 5% growth rate in the meta-population as part of biological management, the Plan states that protection remains a key activity to minimise rhino losses from illegal activities through effective law enforcement, improved neighbour relations, effective criminal investigations and prosecuting, and securing and monitoring rhino horn stockpiles. In addition, human resources should be developed so that there are sufficient skills available to protect and manage black rhinos, and the encouragement of sustainable political and social support for rhino conservation efforts.
The anticipated outcomes of the BMP for Black Rhino also include:
- to maintain optimum levels of genetic diversity;
- to obtain accurate and precise information on black rhino population performance to inform decision making;
- to minimise the loss of rhino through illegal activity, particularly poaching;
- to ensure that sufficient and appropriate human resources and skills are available and deployed efficiently;
- to have effectively coordinated black rhino conservation management; and
- to ensure that support (political and public) for black rhino conservation in South Africa is in place and fostered through multiple and innovative initiatives to improve the actual and perceived value of the species.
Strict rhino hunting guidelines have also been included to ensure proper control over the removal of animals from breeding populations, and to combat any incidence of illegal hunting.
The BMP for Black Rhino focuses on specific conservation measures to ensure the survival of black rhino in the wild and is not aimed at managing current poaching activities. For this there are separate processes underway, among them the National Rhino Management Strategy.