POACHING COMES UNDER SPOTLIGHT AS SOUTH AFRICA MARKS WORLD RANGERS DAY

World Rangers Day has been commemorated in Southg Africa with a call for harsher penalties for poachers, as well as for an increase in the number of game rangers.

The call comes in the wake of the country's continued battle against the killing of endangered animals species, such as the rhino and elephants, particularly for the value of their horns and tusks. At least 1,175 rhinos died at the hands of poachers in South Africa in 2015.

Tshifhiwa Mauda is one of the most respected rangers. The 42-year-old is among those who put their lives on the line daily, protecting the country's heritage. He's been doing this for the past 18 years.

Even though climate change remains a challenge, Tshifhiwa says it's worth it, as his efforts will benefit the future generations.

"It is heart-breaking to come across a carcass of a rhino; when you go close to it, it doesn't have a horn ... What they are doing is wrong. Our children won't be able to see these animals if somebody doesn't wake up and start showing them that we mean business," adds Tshifhiwa.

As in many other countries, South Africa faces increased environmental degradation.

However, despite poaching of the Big Five -- African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros -- continuing to increase, Marakele, near Thabazimbi, a 70,000-hectare national park in Limpopo province, has managed to reduce brutal killings of game for trophies and illegal medical purposes. The last poaching incident there occurred in 2013.

Marakele National Park Manager Mphadeni Nthangeni says: "They (rangers) are sleeping outside seven days a week protecting our national assets so today it's a special day."

But for these brave men and women, their efforts are not going unnoticed. The country also joined the world to commemorate the many rangers killed or injured in the line of duty. It also honoured those who continue to fight the endless battle against poachers.

Acting Head of Communications at South African National Parks (SANParks) Reynold Thakhuli says: "We celebrate World Rangers Day; we are paying tribute to the only human beings that standing between the evil barrel of the poachers. We are saying bravo; we thank them for their hard work."

In the continued fight against the scourge of poaching, 1,460 environmental monitors have been deployed countrywide since 2013.

World Rangers Day is celebrated on July 31.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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