Call to help save animals
The poaching of wild animals, including some endangered species, has become a beast that has turned on the new black landowners in the Vhembe area of northern Limpopo.
The Vhembe Communal Property Association (VCPA) has appealed to the Department of Environmental Affairs and the provincial land commission to save endangered wild species from poachers.
This came after several animal species in the Madimbo Corridor were apparently targeted.
The association was granted rights over the Madimbo Corridor, which forms part of the Matshakatini Nature Reserve on the border with Zimbabwe, in 2004 after a successful land claim. The community also has rights over the animals on the land.
More than 50 000ha is home to elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and at least 10 other species of game.
Since the community took occupation of the land, animals such as nyalas, rhinos and elephants have come under pressure from poachers who allegedly supply international syndicates.
Nelson Masikhwa of VCPA, alleged "soldiers" on both sides of the border have been involved in the theft of wood and poaching.
He said a fortnight ago an elephant was killed and its tusks removed in a park that is guarded by "soldiers".
The VCPA said animals were becoming easy targets because some soldiers in the corridor were also poaching and selling ivory illegally.
"We are sick and tired of this situation. It started with the theft of wood and now they are killing the few remaining animals," said Masikhwa.
He said some of the soldiers were caught hunting on the land and were prosecuted. They had been fined up to R5000 or five years imprisonment.
"We are concerned because the animals might disappear," he said.
Masikhwa said that, though the police and game rangers in the area were doing their best to protect the entire environment and deal with poachers, animals remained at risk.
Lehlohonolo Masoga, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Affairs said rangers had investigated many cases.
"We are against poaching and will try to help the community by working closely with the police," said Masoga.
However, Limpopo land claims commissioner Mashile Mokono said "some processes" had to be followed before the community could be given their title deeds.
"A land surveyor has completed a survey that will define the area to be leased by the Department of Defence.
"Negotiations between the claimants and the defence force will be finalised soon," he said.
He advised the the community to report to the police if they suspect anyone to be actively involved in poaching or other illegal hunting activities in the area.