Rhino Wars in Southern Africa

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"Bloody assault against SA rhinos" was the title of an article published by The Pretoria News on January 10, 2009; and the author stated that "at least 76 white and black rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa's reserves, national parks and on private land last year, illustrating the sudden bloody assault on the country's rhino populations for their valuable horns - but the figure may be much higher." The figure of 76 casualties came from a report released by Sonja Meintjes, deputy director of biodiversity compliance at the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). In 2007 the total loss – high enough in any case – stood at only 10 poached rhino. "The department cannot comment on the dramatic increase at the moment until investigations that are currently under way by the provincial conservation authorities and SANParks have been concluded."The various conservation authorities affected are working with the police to investigate these incidents and hope to make a breakthrough soon," Meintjes added.

The article mentioned that unconfirmed reports suggest the number of rhinos killed in the past year is hovering around 100. Whether the figure is now 76 or a 100 – the situation has clearly gone out of hand! Dr Jacques Flamand, the project leader of the WWF/Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, said" there's definitely an onslaught on the rhino that has come up suddenly. I suspect the more affluent Chinese want it (rhino horn) in greater numbers. Those carrying out the attacks are locals most likely working for Chinese and Vietnamese agents."

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has imposed a moratorium, which came into effect in the meantime, is meant to discourage the poaching of rhino in SA and stem the trade in individual rhino horn to ensure provincial authorities and SANParks maintain consistent protocols for dealing with the trade in rhino horn.

The moratorium is a step into the right direction, but if falls short of the far more stringent measures proposed by the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa during the annual PHASA convention in the Eastern Cape in November of 2008. PHASA proposed inter alia that:

  • each hunting client who wishes to hunt a rhino produces a sworn affidavit that no part of the rhino be used for any commercial purposes,
  • a PHASA member appointed by DEAT confirms in writing that proper procedures were followed during the hunt and all legal requirements were met
  • the outfitter/professional hunter supply PHASA with a photograph of the hunted rhino together with the hunter
  • no trophy or other parts of the rhino be exported without certification of PHASA
  • that all control of rhino hunting be national and not provincial

Source: African Indaba – an electronic newsletter as a public service for hunter-conservationists and all people who are interested in the conservation, management and the sustainable use of Africa’s wild natural resources. African Indaba is published six times a year and distributed free-of-charge via e-messaging service. You can subscribe to the full newsletter by sending an email with your full address to gerhard@muskwa.co.za.