Counter-IWT Projects - Best Practices

Best Practices in South Africa

Being home to 95,000 known species, South Africa ranks as the third most biodiverse country worldwide and is recognized for its high levels of endemism. The country established over 20 National Parks, with the Kruger National Park probably being the most famous one, being home to 30% of the world’s estimated 18,000 wild rhinos. However, many of its ecosystems, including wild species, are threatened, which is not only detrimental to the country’s biodiversity but also to its people, who are highly dependent on its natural resources: either indirectly through tourism, or directly, such as through the use of traditional medicinal plants as a source of health care. To counteract poaching activities, South Africa mobilizes efficient enforcement teams, among them the celebrated Black Mambas – an all-female Anti-Poaching Unit. The law that puts in place protection for threatened species is the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) of 2004.

Strengthening Institutions, Information Management and Monitoring to Reduce the Rate of Illegal Wildlife Trade in South Africa

Project information: The project Strengthening Institutions, Information Management and Monitoring to Reduce the Rate of Illegal Wildlife Trade in South Africa is implemented from 2019-2024 and is funded under the GEF-6 cycle with a Total Project Cost of USD 12.3 million. The project is both implemented at the national level and in designated project sites, where rural communities border the western boundary of the Kruger National Park (KNP): the Makuya Complex; the Matsulu/Stolznek Cluster, and the Sabie Sands Wildtuin and Sabie River Cluster. The Implementing Agency is UNEP, working closely together with the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), which is the Executing Agency. The main project partners for implementation are: For Project Component 1, Strengthening Institutional Capacity and Information Systems for Effective Management of Wildlife Trade Monitoring – South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI); for Project Component 2, Development of a Ready-to-use e-permitting System for CITES-listed Species – DFFE; and for Project Component 3, Strengthening Community Capacity to Reduce the Rate of Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) – a multi-stakeholder approach is driven, including DFFE, the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), South African National Parks (SANParks), and the South African Wildlife College. The project is co-financed by WWF under the Ketha Program and through contributions from all the Sub-Executing Agencies. South Africa is considered predominantly a source country for wildlife crime, with IWT encompassing the illegal harvesting/poaching of high value species such as rhinos, lions, and elephants from the KNP and Greater Kruger reserves, and the illegal trade of animal parts (e.g. rhino horn) to external markets. Locals also use/trade wildlife, e.g. vulture parts, for traditional purposes.

Governance Guidelines and Community Livelihoods: This Component is implemented in three communities living on the western boundary of the KNP (which is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area), with plans for upscaling in the entire region. It aims to engage community members in the wildlife law enforcers’ efforts to oppose and halt IWT. This will be achieved through 1) the drafting, validation and implementation of governance guidelines, specifically targeting community-based wildlife management, and 2) by the provision of livelihood opportunities. 

1) The aim of implementing governance guidelines is to provide a regulatory baseline for actions and interventions at the community level in combating IWT. It is important to note that the project does not seek to establish new structures, but rather to strengthen existing community governance structures at different tiers. Close partners are SANParks and the PPF, who developed a community ranger/village scout model for the prevention of illegal activities in the areas bordering the national park. Even though the project implementation will focus on South Africa, both organizations work and have close ties with neighboring countries, such as Mozambique. SANParks is also part of the constituted Joint Management Board of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) Treaty that was signed in 2002 among Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. This is a crucial testimony for the recognition of the transboundary nature of wildlife conservation and facilitates the cooperation on IWT matters. Communities were already identified and programs launched through the Greater Kruger Steering Committee. This project will contribute through the existing programs and enhance their governance processes and community structures (Community Forums, Traditional Authorities, etc.). Governance guidelines will be co-developed, tiered at the National, Provincial, Community forum, Traditional Authority and Project level. The guidelines will be formally adopted for use by community-based organizations such as People & Parks (P&P), which are government-supported structures, with a national office and provincial chapters in each of the nine provinces. The organization represents the voices and interests of communities who are impacted, positively or negatively, by conservation. The incentives that will be offered to community members who adhere to the guidelines in support of collective action accountability, range from livelihood support projects, employment of rangers and workplace development, over innovative financing options and honorariums, to knowledge sharing and the participation in and access to knowledge/incubator hubs.

2) The main objectives in identifying and implementing community livelihoods under the project are to achieve a reduction in poaching and associated wildlife mortality, as well as to develop environmental awareness and custodianship within communities. Some of these livelihoods may also be essential to target the lack of basic services that some communities experience, as well as to reduce their high dependence on natural resources. In identifying potential livelihoods, a key focus is on the sustainability of existing initiatives, whilst gaps will be identified through an iterative engagement process, and be endorsed by the Greater Kruger Steering Committee and Cluster Task teams. To identify opportunities on a continuous basis, a range of different complementary tools are being used. One of these is a synthesis report, which was based on a stratification framework reviewing strategic, socio-economic, environmental, risk, opportunity, and management considerations, and layered through further filters/criteria of existing institutional mandates, community readiness/willingness, champions, sustainability etc. Livelihood priorities were further narrowed down by several recent programs, such as the Greater Kruger Strategic Development program (2020), recent community consultation processes, and the institutional wildlife and socio-economic priority program of the GEF-6 reporting entities in the implementation clusters. With regard to specific livelihoods, a key focus of communities is to have better access to information/knowledge management on upcoming opportunities, especially for youth; access to funding; and entrepreneurial development opportunities and associated support to access value chain opportunities linked to the Greater Kruger protected area network. Most community members are interested in being taught on trade-related matters, e.g. orange farming and how to sell their produce, but also in waste management (recycling, clean environment, entrepreneurial development); and in value chains linked to the Greater Kruger Protected Area networks, such as crafts, food, and tourism enterprises. Since the project builds on existing programs implemented by well-established institutions, the livelihood initiatives have a high probability to be sustained beyond the project. This will also be ensured by offering capacity building to the participants, as well as by identifying NGOs to take over these initiatives after the project completion.

A cohort of young wildlife professionals for the South African Scientific Authority: The Scientific Authority of South Africa (SAoSA) was established under the NEMBA. The Purpose of the SAoSA is to assist in regulating and restricting trade in specimens of Threatened or Protected Species (as listed in Section 56 of the NEMBA)/CITES-listed species through a scientific and professional review of available information and consultation with stakeholders. The SAoSA has representatives from nine provincial conservation authorities, one per province. These are legal entities in their own right with provincial jurisdiction. SAoSA further includes representatives from the national Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, SANParks, and SANBI, which provides scientific support to the SAoSA and coordinates the secretariat functions. Seeing the importance of the Scientific Authority, well-qualified and committed individuals are essential for the assessment of wildlife species and the reporting to the national level. Once SAoSA members have served their mandated 4-year terms of office, they need to be replaced or can be re-appointed by the Minister. Replacement has been problematic in the past, as young graduates are often inexperienced in wildlife trade. In addition, some of the experienced provincial scientists are close to retirement, whereas some of the new provincial SAoSA members may be less able to provide expert advice. Due to the shortage of expertise that was observed, especially in the Provincial Offices, the project plans to establish a cohort of young wildlife professionals to shadow SAoSA members and to build capacity amongst existing SAoSA members. The project initiated this process by undertaking a survey with past and present SAoSA members to enquire about their capacity needs, in order to develop a capacity building strategy. Moreover, provincial agencies are encouraged to host young professionals, who, once selected for these paid positions, will acquire much needed work experience to shape the future cadre of the SAoSA for their time of deployment. The main objective is to offer these professionals permanent placements in the provincial agencies after their training has come to an end. However, this will be entirely dependent on budget availability and whether prevalent budget constraints can be addressed.