Rhino poaching in S. Africa 'tantamount to acts of war'

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Unchecked rhino poaching in South Africa is "tantamount to acts of war" and has escalated "from an environmental issue to one of national security," the Game Rangers' Association of Africa (GRAA) has said.

"Professionally trained and armed militia from Mozambique enter South Africa to plunder the country's natural resources on a daily basis," the GRAA said in a statement available to Xinhua on Wednesday. "These actions are tantamount to acts of war and such actions are putting not only South African citizens at risk but also one of South Africa's economic sectors namely tourism," the group said. It urged the South African government to take a zero tolerance approach to "what amounts to total disrespect of the country's borders".

"We call for an increased South African National Defense Force presence on our borders to maintain their effectiveness in securing the property, economy and citizens of South Africa," said the GRAA.

The South African government, the group said, must address the matter immediately with Mozambique at the highest possible diplomatic levels, with the mandated ministerial departments and to exert severe pressure on the Mozambican government to address the situation.

"The current disregard by Mozambican citizens of the sovereignty of South Africa's borders cannot be allowed to continue. The situation has escalated from an environmental issue to one of national security. It is time to acknowledge this and act accordingly with the full force of the law."

South Africa's rhino hold significant value within the ecotourism industry, the group said.

"The GRAA does not believe it is the rangers' responsibility to defend the borders of South Africa against these armed incursions which aim to slaughter the country's rhino and whoever dares to stand in their defense." The rhino poaching crisis being experienced in the South African Kruger National Park (KNP) is increasing in magnitude daily. This situation has escalated to the point whereby as of May 23, 2013, 1, 065 rhino have been poached within the park since 2010, the GRAA said.

It called the current situation "deplorable." The KNP, which borders Mozambique, bears the brunt of rhino poaching. It has lost 242 rhinos to poaching since the beginning of this year, according to the latest figures from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edena Molewa said on Tuesday that her department is working hard to sign a memorandum of understanding with Mozambique to set up a fence along the boundary of the KNP.

But Mozambique has already postponed the signing of the agreement a number of times.

Two or three meetings with Mozambique on the matter had been postponed. A change of minister on the Mozambique side had also contributed to the delay.

The delay has been going on for one year and a half, Molewa said. 

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