Pariamentary Group - Environment Committee Report, 3 March 2015

The Committee, in the presence of the Minister and Deputy Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and senior officials of the Department was briefed on the state of wildlife crime in SA. The comprehensive presentation looked at the role of the Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs), green scorpions and the Department in the space of enforcement, monitoring and compliance for wildlife crime. The briefing covered national capacity building programmes, international and regional engagements, challenges to be addressed before discussing species of national concern which included reptiles, birds, predators and cycads. Also included in the species of national concern were rhinos where the briefing specifically focused on integrated strategic management, managing rhino populations, compulsory interventions, national, regional and international collaborations, long term sustainability interventions and the committee of inquiry which was set-up to explore the possibility of legalising the possible trade of rhino horn or not.

The Committee then engaged in robust discussion with the Minister on the state of wildlife in SA questioning the capacity of the green scorpions, training to deal with the enforcement and prosecution issues of wildlife crime, the Department’s view on canned lion hunting and habitat loss. Many of the questions were particularly related to rhino and poaching issues where discussion was held on the details of the committee of inquiry – public funds spent on meetings and workshops and community involvement in the committee. Other points were asked around what private owners and the private sector was doing in terms of fighting poaching, success of the various international engagements especially in reducing demand management in consumer states, border security, translocation of rhino and transit routes for the movement of horn.

Czech-mate for rhino horn smuggling pipeline

THE Czech Republic has charged three Vietnamese alleged to be members of an international crime syndicate specialising in trafficking rhino horn.

According to Stephanka Zenclova, spokesman for the Municipal State Attorney’s office in Prague, the accused face up to eight years in prison if convicted of the charges.

They have been in custody since July 2014 and were charged on Wednesday.

Police seized further incriminating items and documents during home-searches in two Czech towns, and in Prague's Sapa market place.
"Law enforcement bodies may use them in further criminal proceedings”, Zenklova said.

Authorities suspect the group wanted to export horns to Vietnam without the required permits from the Czech Republic, and sell them on the black market where their price exceeds several times the hunting costs.

A Czech dossier shows vast quantites of rhino horn have been moved from to from South Africa to Eastern Europe to avoid detection, before re-export to Vietnam.

The practise is called “round-tripping”.

Forensic test results showed the seized horns belonged to a southern white rhino hunted by a Czech man in South Africa at a Limpopo hunting farm located near Ellisras.

It is believed the farm is owned by a husband and wife Czech couple.

The horns were allegedly acquired as hunting trophies in contravention of international regulations and CITES protocol (Convention for the Trade in Endangered Species) by exploiting legal loopholes in the South Africa’s conservation and hunting permit system.

Czech investigators believe there were more than 25 pseudo rhino hunts by Czechs in Limpopo alone, and massive loopholes in South Africa's conservation and hunting regulations allowed the syndicates to arrange pseudo hunts there.

"These were not rhino trophy hunting trips for the sport. They were cold-blooded executions," they told The Times.

The breakthrough in the case against the three accused came when alert Czech customs officials at Prague’s Vaclav Havel airport x-rayed a shipping crate destined for Vietnam in December 2013.

The crate was labelled as “wiring accessories”.

According to Sarka Miskovska of the Czech Customs Authority, officials discovered two rhino horns covered in plastic film and coated with resin and asphalt concealed in the centre compartment of an electrical wire spool/spindle.

"The horns weighed approximately 6.77 kg, and valued at approximately US$360 000 on the international black-market", said Simona Ciqankova of the Czech Environmental inspectorate.

Read more: Czech-mate for rhino horn smuggling pipeline

Act now

Acting CEO at SANParks a real powerhouse

Nomvuselelo Songelwa, or Mvusy as she is known by her colleagues, was born in Qumbu village in the Eastern Cape almost fifty years ago.

She boasts a BSc in Natural Science and won some prestigious awards including the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship, the Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program and the 2004 Women in Science Award.

She registered at the Witwatersrand University and used the “sandwich” programme to go overseas where she did experiential learning in USA, Europe, the Philippines and in Africa particularly the local land reform programme in Zimbabwe.

She completed her PhD in Agrarian & Land Reform and her dissertation was titled “A Gender Analysis of the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development Programme: A case study in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.” She started working for SANParks as far back as 1996 and has gone up the ladder.

From working at Golden Gate and Table Mountain Her position concentrated on the inclusion of communities surrounding the parks and to expose them to what the parks can offer in terms of education and recreation.

After leaving SANParks in 2001, she was employed back in 2005 as a Regional Manager in Garden Route. As a Managing Executive: Parks at SA National Parks, Dr Songelwa’s primary responsibilities among others is provision of strategic and operational support for Parks Division of the organization (responsible for 21 National Parks, distributed across the 7 provinces of the country).

These exclude the Kruger National Park. Recent achievements within the organization encompass the development of divisional 5- year Strategic Plan, coordination of the Park Planning Framework, and overseeing the development / review and implementation of Park Management Plans.

Her experience and rich expertise in the area of park management and tourism, has seen successful consolidation, establishment and proclamation of the Garden Route National (consisting of Tsitsikamma, Knysna, Wilderness and the Forestry Areas), where she was the Regional Manager.

This is one area that has been instrumental in guiding the development of the South African National ‘Guidelines for the Development of Park Management Plans for Protected Areas’. In October 2012, Mvusy presented ‘A Planning Framework for National Parks: Improving Governance’ at the First Pan-African Conference on Sustainable Tourism Management in African National Parks and Protected Areas hosted by UNWTO.

Her exposure in Tourism has been through management of National Parks for over a decade.

Her experience and rich expertise in the area of park management and tourism, has seen successful consolidation, establishment and proclamation of the Garden Route National (consisting of Tsitsikamma, Knysna, Wilderness and the Forestry Areas), where she was the Regional Manager.

She was subsequently appointed as a Senior General Manager for Parks which she was primarily responsible for developing and monitoring strategy for the Parks (other than KNP).

Her interests include strategic planning, Women in Leadership, Rural development, public speaking, facilitation and people management.

She is currently enrolled as part of the Global Executive Development Program with Gordon Institute Business School Dr Songelwa confesses that she is a dreamer and not a business person and that her strong points are really with people, which is what she believes has made her to thrive within SANParks.

“I like to unleash the potential in others”. The meaning of her name, ‘to revive’, is a legacy she lives to uphold.

Dr Songelwa will return to her current position at SANParks, until the appointment of the new CE is in place. She replaced Abe Sibiya after his tenure came to an end on 30 September 2014.

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