Zimbabwe today made history by commemorating for the first time RHINO DAY. The event which was graced by Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority board members, school children,stakeholders,Parks Staff, the public, different media houses and Zimbabwe's renowned music super star Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi whose performance was flawless. The event will now be commemorated annually. Here is Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Cde F.D.C.Nhema who was the guest of honor.
The Permanent Secretary
Parks Board Chairman, Mr. Pangeti
Board Members here present
Members of the press
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my singular honour to be here today to celebrate rhino day which marks the beginning of a new thrust in our efforts to promote the protection of the rhino. It is a celebration of successful conservation strategies implemented by various individuals, organisations and companies who are pulling their resources to conserve the rhino from poaching. The primary objective is to create awareness on the plight of the rhino and help stem illegal trade in rhino and rhino products worldwide.
Rhino Day is being celebrated in a number of countries throughout Africa and Asia. Other countries in North America and Europe are also participating in observing Rhino day to bring attention to important issues surrounding rhino conservation. The celebration of the rhino day by a number of countries creates an international forum for EVERYONE to discuss the conservation of this important species. All are encouraged to participate regardless of background. It is a day for everyone to share stories, photos and ideas about wildlife and rhino species in particular
Unless concerted and collaborative efforts are made to salvage endangered animals from the current onslaught, the beautiful animals may become extinct. A loss of one species in the world makes the world poorer and diminishes the capacity of the environment to operate optimally.
The main theme of this Rhino Day 2011 is: â€œRHINO HORN IS NOT MEDICINE, RHINOS ARE PART OF OUR NATIONAL HERITAGE, LET US HELP PROTECT THEMâ€
It is important to note that there are five species of Rhino in the world, two of which, the Black (hook-lipped) and White (Square-Lipped) rhinos live in Africa. The other three, the Indian, Javan, and Sumatran rhinos live in Asia. The Javan Rhino is the most critically endangered mammal on earth.
The Black, White, and Sumatran Rhinos all have two horns, while the Javan and Indian only have one.
Rationale behind the Day
The rhino is being persecuted primarily for its horn (a fibrous keratinised structure). It is believed that the horn has medicinal as well as aphrodisiac properties, a belief that science has not confirmed. This has remained a myth, widely shared in some Asian countries.
The African continent population was estimated at 65 000 in 1960, but today much fewer animals are left. The black rhino (Diceros bicornis) was put on Appendix 1 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) in 1973 as a result of this alarming decline. Through poaching, which intensified in the 1980s, the rhino population was reduced to less than 3 000 by 1992 on the African continent. Following unprecedented poaching in the Zambezi valley, Sebungwe and Hwange-Matetsi sub-regions, numbers in Zimbabwe declined to about 250 by 1993. The magnitude of this onslaught was alarming, prompting the formulation of conservation strategies to harness the decline. These measures led to the recovery of the population to 400 by 2000 and to the current estimate of 700. This makes Zimbabwe the fourth largest after South Africa, Namibia and Kenya in terms of aggregate rhino population.
However, despite the gains made in rhino conservation, poaching remains the single largest threat to rhino survival. The country lost 66 Rhinos during the period 2010 to August 2011. While the rate of our losses has slowed down significantly this year, our rhino population remain under severe threat. Neighbouring countries notably South Africa are facing similar threats to their populations.
It is against this background that the Rhino Day is being observed to celebrate efforts made towards its protection as well as to raise awareness among stakeholders, including the demand markets. There is need to concertize all stakeholders that co-operation, co-ordination and integrated action involving Governments, individuals, organizations, communities and institutions around the world is required.
Therefore, while the Rhino Day is intended to raise awareness about the plight of the rhino and reflect on efforts made to protect the species, the primary objective is to raise support for and encourage government and conservation partners to work collaboratively.
It is also a day to recognize and show support for Zimbabweâ€™s rhino warriors, the gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who are at the frontline and risk their lives daily against the sophisticated, ruthless and heavily-armed international criminal gangs and syndicates running the illegal rhino horn trade.
As you are aware, rhinos constitute one of the highly-regarded â€œBig 5â€ of African wildlife that acts as an axis of attraction and a draw card for tourism. The other animals which are part of the big five are Elephant, Lion, Leopard and the Cape Buffalo. While Zimbabwe is home to approximately 700 rhinos, both black and white, these are currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list of endangered mammals.
As indicated earlier, the number of rhinos poached in Zimbabwe continues to rise. Halting the current wave of poaching requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders, otherwise the risk is that the hard-won population increases achieved by conservation authorities in the past will be completely reversed.
Halting these poachers is not an easy task, given that these criminals use â€˜high-technologyâ€™ gear, including night-vision equipment, veterinary tranquilizers, silencers and helicopters as has been witnessed elsewhere in the region. If not stopped soon, Zimbabwe and its neighboursâ€™ rhino populations will soon slide into critically low levels, hence, pushing them to the edge of extinction.
Aggravating the precarious situation of the rhino is the â€˜heightenedâ€™ demand for rhino horn, which has long been prized as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine. More recently it has also been claimed to possess cancer-curing properties. However, as mentioned before, the reality is that there is no scientific or any other evidence for that matter to support these claims, hence, the slogan, â€˜the rhino horn is not medicine.â€™
Past and Current Efforts to Protect the Rhino
Faced with this onslaught on the rhino population, Zimbabwe has responded by intensifying its law enforcement efforts, resulting in 162 poaching arrests in 2010. Some poachers have been killed and as much as their deaths cannot be celebrated it is an indication of how serious we and the entire conservation fraternity view the looting of the nationâ€™s natural heritage. The Government also came up with various strategies to combat increased poaching activities. Some of the successful strategies include the Zimbabwe Black Rhino Conservation Strategy introduced by Parks in 1992 and the 2003 Rhino Management Strategy and the Black Rhino Project Emergency Plan. These strategies entail capture and translocation approaches that gave rise to the need to establish the Rhino Intensive Protection Zones (IPZs) on state land and for the establishment of black rhino conservancies on private land. In situ and ex situ conservation programmes are actively pursued.
In addition, Zimbabwe is signatory to regional and international protocols and conventions, such as the SADC Protocol on Wildlife and Law enforcement of 1999 , the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna of 1973 ( CITES) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of 1992, designed to enhance co-operation in wildlife protection and management.
The major challenges currently threatening rhino survival are:
Â· High demand for the horn, hence, fuelling poaching and illegal trade.
Â· Need for deterrent sentences
Â· Lack of adequate resources to combat effective law enforcement
In conclusion, given the above scenario, I know that each and every one of us here and anywhere else in and outside Zimbabwe, hearing this message harbours the question â€˜How can I help?â€™ On your behalf, I have attempted to address your question by offering the following tips;
- Do not encourage or be involved in poaching.
- Never buy or sell a rhino horn in any form.
- Do not keep poachers in your homes, churches, organisations or at work places, expose them.
- Report any would be poachers to the nearest Parks Office or Police station.
- Spread the word of rhino conservation by telling your friends and relatives.
Â· Adopt a rhino [contribute towards rhino protection- make donations (cash or kind) to organisations working to protect rhinos].
Â· Tell the world that we care about our Heritage, that rhinos belong to our children and the future.
Â· Help educate people! Let them know that rhino horn has no medicinal value. Tell them how majestic and wonderful rhinos are.
Â· Inspire others to take action, post something online, share photos, stories and ideas. Put a poster up in your car or business that promotes rhino conservation.
At the end of the day, it is our conviction that only a concerted and unified national and international response by law enforcement agencies, governments, local communities and all stakeholders will provide these magnificent animals with a safe haven and a realistic chance of survival.
It is for this cause that we call upon Corporate Organizations, NGOs and individuals to contribute towards conservation of rhino and other wild animals and to take care of the environment we live in for our sake as well as for future generations.
Play your part, support rhino protection efforts and keep the rhino alive. Remember rhinos are part of our national heritage. Long live our rhinos, long live our wildlife resources, long live a safer environment.
I THANK YOU