Rhino hunting moratorium considered

30 August 2011 - 02:58 By ANNA MAJAVU AND I-NET BRIDGE
A dead rhino and calf killed by poachers. File photo.
A dead rhino and calf killed by poachers. File photo.
Image: AFP PHOTO/STRINGER

Rhino poaching rakes in more than R637-million a year, according to sources close to a number of investigations into it.

RHINO poaching rakes in more than R637-million a year, according to sources close to a number of investigations into it.

They said this in response to Environmental Minister Edna Molewa's decision yesterday to consider imposing a moratorium on rhino hunting in an effort to curb the slaughter of the endangered animals.

More than 218 rhino have been illegally shot in South Africa so far this year as demand for the horn increases, especially in South east Asian nations such as Vietnam and Thailand.

Speaking at the briefing at which Molewa made the announcement, SANParks CEO David Mabunda said rhino poaching had increased for various reasons, including the recent announcement by a Vietnamese government minister that he was "cured of cancer through mixing a rhino horn concoction".

The number of rhino poached in the Kruger National Park increased from 146 last year to 169 this year.

Though the police have arrested 155 people for poaching in the past eight months, Molewa said "the cases that we have in the courts take a long while before being concluded and the rate of prosecution is still quite low".

She said poachers had shifted their focus to private game reserves now that the army had been deployed to patrol the borders.

This might have led to the increase in demand for rhino horn.

The government was now looking at banning even recreational hunting, Molewa said. The department has this year issued 143 permits to recreational hunters - up from 129 last year.

Molewa said she would soon meet environmental affairs MECs to look into the possibility of imposing a moratorium on rhino hunting.

The National Prosecuting Authority has dedicated 20 prosecutors to the prosecution of rhino poachers.

In the Kruger National Park alone, authorities are spending R450-million a year to combat rhino poaching, up from R160-million a few years ago, Mabunda said.

Molewa said illegal hunting and the abuse of the permit system threatened the survival of rhinoceroses in the wild in the near future.

She said to address the abuse of the permit system, she, along with her provincial colleagues, had approved the amendment of the norms and standards in marketing of the rhino horn and hunting of white rhinos for trophy purposes.

From now on, provincial conservation officials will supervise rhino hunts and verify the identity of the hunter.

The official must supply the Department of Environmental Affairs with the permit number, information on the back of the permit, microchip numbers and DNA samples of the rhino shot.

Sources said, however, that the economic incentive remained.

"Right now, the wholesale price of a rhino horn is about R65000.

"It might start increasing to R75000 if there is fear that supply might be constrained," said one law-enforcement source.

X