Conservationist defends rhino hunt
Rhino conservationist Ian Player has defended conservation agency Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s decision to sanction the hunting of a R1 million white rhino bull at the Makhasa Community Reserve near Mkhuze.
Player, commenting on the controversial plan to allow an unidentified hunter to shoot the animal as a trophy at a cost of R960,000, in the Cape Times newspaper, said legal hunting had made a significant contribution to the recovery of the formerly critically endangered species.
The species had recovered rapidly in the early 20th century through intensive protection and a ban on hunting, followed by controlled hunting from the 1970s.
"The rhino population began to explode because of financial incentives and because ranchers started to buy land for wildlife. They (hunters) have played a big role in the recovery of the white rhino," Player said.
He said the Makhasa community had given up 1800ha of land to establish a community wildlife reserve.
"You cannot expect the community to do that for nothing. I have spent my life protecting the rhino, but as far as Makhasa is concerned it would be a very serious mistake not to help those people.
"I really believe that if they make a success at Makhasa, this will be the new frontier for conservation and will encourage other communities to bring in other land for conservation," he said.
At least two other conservation groups have argued against banning rhino hunts entirely.
Endangered Wildlife Trust chief Yolan Friedman and Wilderness Foundation chief Andrew Muir warned that a moratorium could have "unintended and negative consequences which are prejudicial to the southern white rhino conservation as a whole".
In October, Friedman, Muir and Pelham Jones, of the Private Rhino Owners’ Association, said most state-run parks in South Africa were reaching the end of their productive carrying capacity and there was a need to remove "surplus" rhino.
"To allow the continued expansion of rhino range and numbers, and so enable overall numbers to grow... the private sector and communities have to provide the new conservation land. The extent to which they do so largely depends on economic incentives and the perceived risk of managing rhino."