Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THE South African government wants to erect a fence in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park to combat rhino poaching, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Tuesday.

The park joins parts of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe into a single conservation area, including the Kruger National Park.

In her budget vote speech in Parliament, Ms Molewa said the reality of rhino poaching, particularly in the Kruger National Park, continued to be a major challenge, especially when considering financial constraints.

"This situation is fuelled by a thriving black-market trade in rhino horn," she said.

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, so far this year 313 rhinos have been poached across the country and 98 people arrested.

By the first half of May in 2013, the Kruger had lost 13 rhinos to poachers and a total of 229 of the endangered species since the start of 2013.

At a briefing after her speech, Ms Molewa said it was not just a South African National Parks (SANParks) recommendation that the fence be erected, "but I would say it is a shared view (of the South African government)".

Ms Molewa said the issue of the fence — which would stretch along the border with Mozambique — had been escalated to presidential level. Three meetings had been scheduled between South African and Mozambican officials, but these had not taken place yet due to other urgent matters.

She also said the challenge of combating rhino poaching had been elevated to the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure, which includes representatives of the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force, government departments and Statistics South Africa.

Furthermore, R75m has been allocated to SANParks to combat poaching between 2013 and 2016.

Democratic Alliance MP Marti Wenger said a special bilateral agreement with Mozambique had to be stringent as more than 80% of the poachers apprehended in South Africa were from that country and South Africa, home to 85% of the world’s rhino population, was not winning the war.

Ms Wenger said rhino horn was now more precious than gold as its street price in countries such as Vietnam had risen to $65,000/kg.

"Let’s look at some comparisons: between 2000 and 2007, the poaching rate of rhinos was 12 per year and since 2007 the figure has escalated to 83 in 2008, to 122 in 2009, to 333 in 2010, to 448 in 2011 and to 668 in 2012," she said.

"Of these, 425 occurred in the Kruger National Park. This is an increase of more than 5,000% in the number of rhinos killed between 2007 and 2012."