The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs, Jackson Mthembu, to request that a special inquiry be launched into the current Rhino poaching crisis.
Specifically, Parliament needs to be briefed by the Department - and its entities - on all their plans to protect this endangered animal and the reasons why we are losing the war against rhino poaching.
This follows reports today that South African National Parks's (SANParks) plan to remove over 500 rhinos from the Kruger National Park - and place them in 'secret locations' - is mired in controversy.
The report has found that:
The relocation plan was suspended due to political infighting at SANParks;
It is alleged that all contracts and projects relating to former SANParks CEO, David Mabunda, and suspended Head of Conservation Services, Dr. Hector Magome, have been shelved or cancelled. This includes a three-year contract to with risk mitigation and security services company, Pathfinder, to provide intelligence to the Kruger National Park on poachers and syndicates operating in the area;
That 250 of these 500 rhino have been sold to private buyers to fund the relocation of the remaining number. It is not clear why all 500 could be moved to safe locations, and why there isn't a budget to do this;
Lastly, questions remain as to who has benefited from the private sale of these rhino from the park and whether all funds are being used for its conservation.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that the neither the Department nor SANParks have this crisis under control.
The DA believes that, due to under reporting by parks officials, there are possibly more than 370 rhinos killed in the Kruger National Park and more than 600 nationally.
It is now time for Parliament to intervene and make sure that this matter is brought under control as a matter of urgency and that all government plans are appropriately monitored. An inquiry of this nature is the best way to ensure this happens.
With rapidly decreasing population numbers due to almost unbridled poaching, conservation efforts to protect rhino have never been more fragile.
Now more than ever, we need a single strategy that coordinates the efforts of all stakeholders to be put in place to save South Africa's rhino population.
The DA will also lodge a complaint with the Public Protector, requesting an investigation into failings behind rhino conservation.
It is unacceptable that self-interest seems to be obstructing any real action in this regard.
The DA will continue in its efforts to preserve South Africa's wildlife as a matter of National pride and for the enjoyment of future generations.
Terri Stander, Shadow Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs