The United Nations has recently donated R30-million into law enforcement and DNA testing to help South Africa battle the ongoing poaching of rhinos. Environment Minister Edna Molewa indicated at a briefing that her department had signed a cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to establish the program. The United Nations' Global Environmental Facility (GEF) has allotted R30-million to the project over four years. This project, known as the UNEP-GEF Rhino Project, is devised to intensify law enforcement, improvise environmental crime scene management, and help stop poaching on the ground and the illegal wildlife trade internationally. One of the main focuses of the project will be the application of forensic technology to help assure convictions for the poaching and trade of rhino horns. Part of this project would include enhancing a database of rhino horn DNA samples. That is, several rhino horn stockpiles that were built up over the years from natural causes of death had DNA samples taken. Some of these horns were analyzed by the veterinary genetics laboratory from the University of Pretoria. However, there was an inventory of samples to be evaluated and the money donated by the GEF would help pay for the inventory to be reduced. Minister Molewa stated that the DNA analyses provided a record of the horn's origin, which, if found wrongly in possession of anyone, would help in prosecuting the individual. According to Frances Craige, chief director of South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs, the money would be used for crime scene management such as how and when a rhino was killed. Earlier, a program manager had been assigned to supervise the UNEP-GEF Rhino Project and a trailer containing forensic equipment was bought. A training on advanced crime scene management is scheduled to begin next month.
It is very beneficial and helpful of the United Nations to help South Africa in its battle against rhino-poaching. The money donated by the U.N will help South Africa strengthen its law enforcement, conduct DNA testing, improvise environmental crime scene management, and stop poaching and the illegal wildlife trade on both national and international grounds. All these goals are part of the UNEP-GEF Rhino Project. This project has so far consisted of a program manager to run it and a trailer containing forensic equipment has been bought, but there is still a host of other components to help in the fight against South Africa's rhino-poaching problem. One of them is the training of advanced crime scene management which will start next month. In addition, this project has also brought together other groups involved in the rhino-poaching battle. These include South African National Parks (SANParks), the South African Police (SAP), University of Pretoria, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It appears that South Africa is on the verge of gaining the upper-hand against the poaching of rhinos with this project underway. Hopefully, this will prevent poachers from further decimating South Africa's rhino population to meet the growing demands of rhino horns and save the nation's tourism industry.
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