By Allison Thomson
The Public Protector has been requested to investigate the sale of 260 rhinos by SANParks to hunting companies. On the 20th July 2014 the Sunday Times published an article about the relocation of 500 rhinos out of Kruger National Park (KNP). SANParks vehemently denied these allegations but on the 12th of August Minister Edna Molewa confirmed that cabinet had given its approval on the 6th August 2014 for the evacuation of 500 rhinos for their continued safety.
On the 13th August 2014, Oxpeckers.org released further information that 260 of these rhinos had been sold to three hunting safari companies in the Northern Cape: Winterhoek Safaris, Chapunga Safaris and Steyn Safaris. Apparently the contracts with these companies were signed in October/November 2013, 10 months prior to cabinet approval for the sale of these Rhinos.
Mr Alexander Steyn of Steyn Safaris, is identified in Julian Rademeyer’s book “Killing for Profit” as the individual that allegedly connected Dawie Groenewald (who is out on bail on 1872 charges relating to rhino poaching) with a Vietnamese rhino horn buyer.
Equally alarming is an allegation by a very reliable source that SANParks went ahead with the sales despite being advised by a reputable scientist that certain of the ranches were unsuitable for Rhinos.
Further investigation revealed that one of the co-owners of Wintershoek is the Deputy President of Wildlife Ranching SA (WRSA), raising questions about the involvement of a SANParks board member who up until very recently was the President of WRSA. Did this play any role in the selection of the purchasers?
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs the purpose of the “evacuation” of rhinos is to move them to safer areas due to the escalating poaching crisis in KNP. Is SANParks able to guarantee the safety of these animals after they have been sold and what benefit will they have to conservation if they are going to be killed by hunters?
In an article in the Sunday Times on 17 August 2014 Minister Molewa confirmed that Hector Magome, senior SANParks executive was suspended because the SANParks Board had “issues” about the procedures that were followed with the sale of the Rhinos.
It is believed that the 260 rhinos were sold for a mere R60m (Sunday Times) which equates to an average price of R230 700 per rhino. In May 2014 at an auction held by Vleissentraal, 6 rhinos were sold for R3,3milion, an average price of R550 000 per rhino: It’s clear that a far greater amount could have been realized had the rhinos gone out on tender or auction.
The Public Protector has been asked investigate these sales as well as other related suspicious issues and to halt the movement of these rhinos from KNP until such time as a full investigation has been done into the contracts and the suitability of the destinations that these rhinos are being moved to.