Introduction and background
Rhino poaching has reached severe levels in South Africa. A total of 1004 rhino were poached in 2013. As of mid-September 2014, 739 rhino had been poached in South Africa since the start of the year, and 227 rhino poachers had been arrested.
South Africa brought the rhino back from the brink of extinction in the 1960s and through a series of translocations from the core rhino population in the then Hluhluwe Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, the rhino population has grown to more than 21 000 animals.
As of 2012, Africa’s rhino population was estimated at 25 480.. South Africa is home to more than 80% of the world’s rhino population, and 93% of Africa’s rhino.
Poaching is threatening South Africa’s proud conservation record, the country’s heritage, tourism industry, job creation, the economy and, ultimately, the survival of a key species.
The government, through specialised interventions is doing its best to combat the scourge of rhino poaching.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, has repeatedly expressed grave concern about the high rate of rhinos poached, reiterating the government’s unwavering commitment in the continued fight against rhino poaching
Communities living adjacent to National Parks, state and privately-owned conservation areas, and private game reserve owners, rely on the rhino, as a key member of the Big Five, as a source of income and job creation. Should the rhino become extinct, thousands of jobs will be lost alongside the collapse of an important contributor to the South African economy through tourism and hunting.
As the second-largest mammal in Africa and a member of the Big Five, the rhino is an important part of South Africa’s cultural, economic and natural heritage.
While the increase in rhino poaching has been attributed to increased demand from countres such as Vietnam, the poachers and the smugglers of rhino horn live in South Africa and Mozambique, in areas adjacent to high-poaching areas such as the Kruger National Park.
The government has taken a number of steps to address poaching, including the creation of a special task team involving the SAPS, NPA, Department of Justice, Department of Defence, the Hawks, SARS, SANParks and the Department’s own specialists. On the international front, Memoranda of Understanding in the field of Biodiversity Conservation have been concluded with Mozambique, Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China, as part of the multi-pronged effort by the government to addressing the scourge of rhino poaching – from source to consumer. Negotiations to sign Memoranda of Understanding with Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and African states including Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana are progressing well.
Nationally, the Department has introduced numerous legislative and policy measures since 2012 to address rhino poaching, including instituting stricter controls on the issuing of rhino hunting permits that have resulted in a marked decrease in hunting applications from countries alleged to be involved in the pseudo-hunting of rhino to secure horns for the medicinal markets and the high flying social scene in consumer states in the Far East.
In July 2013, Cabinet authorised the Department of Environmental Affairs to explore the feasibility, or not, of a legal trade in rhino horn. A Panel of Experts has been appointed by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa to assist the government in reaching a decision on whether to table a rhino trade proposal for consideration at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of CITES, scheduled to be held in South Africa in 2016.
In August 2014, the Minister announced that Cabinet had approved the integrated strategic management of rhinoceros in South Africa, which includes the translocation of an estimated 500 rhino from the Kruger National Park to safe havens inside the country and in rhino range states in Southern Africa to ensure the future survival of the species.
The integrated strategic management approach is two-pronged. Firstly, its aim is to reduce the threat to rhinos by protecting rhino assets. The second is on managing rhinos themselves, as a completely integrated element of managing the threat of poaching. This includes strategic relocations, if deemed necessary. More....