LETTER: Help protect critically endangered wildlife
Cutbacks in anti-poaching helicopter operations, coupled with other major cutbacks in wildlife monitoring, have already begun as Ezemvelo grapples with a R53million loss in revenue.
The entity has been dealt a double blow during the lockdown, having to refund R2m in accommodation fees while it under-collected on gate fees, the sale of consumables, and fuel at provincial parks. R5.2m was cumulatively lost in wildlife sales and hunting package income.
The financial loss could have massive ramifications for the protection of critically endangered wildlife. Rhino poaching figures have already jumped by 3% in the fourth quarter of the financial year, as Ezemvelo renegotiates contracts with service providers. Among these, the helicopter services that assist in anti-poaching operations and wildlife monitoring and management. The vulture project in the Drakensberg is among the projects left without airborne monitoring.
Covid-19 has similarly put the kibosh on several other projects as the entity faces severe financial constraints. There has been an inability to renovate tourist or staff accommodation in the flagship Hluhluwe, Imfolozi Park, and much-needed computers and IT infrastructure could not be purchased.
Hundreds of critical vacancies are unable to be filled, adding to the degradation of facilities and the risk of more poaching of endangered wildlife.
We have repeatedly called on government to seek public-private partnerships to work together, particularly in the commercialisation of the accommodation and tourism aspects of the entity, thereby ensuring that this vital asset to our heritage continues to provide a valuable service to our province. Perhaps now is the time to be actively pursuing this avenue. While the MEC and management will formulate new annual performance plans, citizens can help save Ezemvelo.
We calls on all travellers to stand in solidarity with Ezemvelo as the custodians of our natural heritage. A day visit or stay-over at one of the many destinations managed by Ezemvelo could help drag the entity away from the edge of the financial abyss.
The views expressed in this letter do not reflect the views of the editor or staff of The Mercury. If you would like to have your letter published, email [email protected]