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Media Release: Possible solutions to Rhino horn scourge debated by Parliamentary committee

Date: 5th December 2013

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs met this week to get a better understanding of the current situation relating to the illegal killing and conservation of rhinoceros in South Africa and to debate and seek possible solutions to the rhino poaching challenges in South Africa.

Rhino poaching across South Africa and Africa has risen sharply in the past few years and has threatened to reverse the hard-won population increases achieved by conservation authorities during the 20th Century. In order to address this problem, Government and various other role-players have initiated various interventions to address the surge in rhino poaching. Following several engagements over the past two years between the Portfolio Committee and relevant stakeholders, the Portfolio Committee conducted a follow-up workshop on Rhino Poaching in Skukuza, Kruger National Park, from 2 – 4 December 2013, with a view to giving impetus to the efforts and commitment towards minimising the scourge of Rhino Poaching.

The workshop, held in Skukuza, comes as the number of rhino poached for their horn in South Africa, since January 2013 increased to 919.  

So far this year, 560 rhino have been poached in the Kruger National Park.  And the provincial figures stand at a total of 359.  In Limpopo alone, 105 rhino have been poached, 82 in North West, 79 in KwaZulu-Natal and 77 in Mpumalanga.  The total number of suspected poachers arrested has increased to 316.

The workshop, attended by around 80 delegates, included 13 members of the Portfolio Committee, the Department of Environmental Affairs, provincial departments, SANParks, private rhino owners and numerous stakeholders and NGOs. The meeting was opened by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister, Mrs Edna Molewa, on Monday, 2 December 2013 who emphasised the need for cooperation by various stakeholders and indicated the government’s plan moving forward. The Minister reiterated that continuing to do more of the same is not working.  The solution to rhino poaching is complex and needs innovative solutions.

Members of the Portfolio Committee, under the chairmanship of Advocate Johnny de Lange, were briefed on all issues related to rhino conservation; management; safety and security; trends, structure, nature of black markets in wildlife products; consumer behaviour, and rhino economics. Discussions also focussed on possible solutions to destroy or at least seriously debilitate the existence of a lucrative, rapidly growing, underground “black market” illegally trading in rhino horn. Some of the proposed solutions included among others:

  • Increased involvement of communities, including community ownership of rhino and benefit-sharing by communities
  • Emphasis on cross-border collaboration, including cross-border enforcement operations to disrupt local criminal networks
  • Enhancing actionable intelligence to enable South Africa to disrupt transnational criminal networks involved in the illegal trade in rhino horn
  • Implementation of mechanism to increase the conviction rate in rhino-related cases
  • Converting the present ranger corps into the best anti-poaching force in Africa
  • Implementation of mechanisms to improve communication and cooperation between private landowners, security forces and the environmental sector
  • The continued use of the DNA project, RhoDIS, to enhance enforcement, prosecution and the creation of a national rhino DNA database
  • Incentivise the strictly limited and regulated trade and possession of rhino as a live commodity
  • Strategic, targeted culturally sensitive demand reduction initiatives
  • Introducing a strictly limited and regulated trade mechanism for rhino horn through which only legal horn from legitimate stockpiles, and not harvested horns, are sourced

Advocate de Lange, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, emphasized that the Committee expects that all interventions should be based on and support protection, conservation and sustainable use, which are the cornerstones of the environmental rights afforded to the people of South Africa in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution. The principle of sustainable use as an integral part of conservation is not only enshrined in the Constitution and the country’s environmental legislation.  

Section 24 of the Constitution provides everyone with the right to and environment that secures ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

The discussions relating to a strictly limited and regulated trade in rhino horn included the need to:

  • Ensure that all opportunities, implications and risks are assessed;
  • Urgently finalise the verification of all rhino horn stockpiles, especially privately owned stockpiles;
  • Finalise the process to appoint a Panel of Experts to assist the Inter-Ministerial Committee appointed by Cabinet to deliberate on the matters relating to a possible trade in rhino horn;
  • Engage rhino range States and the region on these matters, including range expansion; and sharing of best practices and information; and
  • Ensure that all other measures and initiatives continue to be implemented and strengthened.

It was emphasised that all parties present shared a common concern and interest, and that more similar engagements need to be held as the government prepares to table its proposal regarding the trade in rhino horn to CITES CoP17 in 2016.

The Parliamentary Committee needs to continue working closely with all government and civil society stakeholders in ensuring that decisions regarding the management and conservation of South Africa’s rhino are not detrimental to their future.

South Africans and members of the international community are encouraged to report information regarding rhino poaching and related  tip-offs to the anonymous tip-off lines 0800 205 005, 08600 10111 or Crime-Line on 32211.

Rhino poaching statistics:

SA2010201120122013
KNP (SANParks) 146 252 425 560
MNP (SANParks) 0 6 3 3
GP 15 9 1 4
LIM 52 74 59 105
MP 17 31 28 77
NW 57 21 77 82
EC 4 11 7 5
FS 3 4 0 4
KZN 38 34 66 79
WC 0 6 2 0
NC 1 0 0 0
TOTAL 333 448 668 919


Rhino poaching arrests statistics 
:

SA2013201220112010
KNP (SANParks) 121 73 82 67
MNP (SANParks) 0 0 0 0
Gauteng (GP) 8 26 16 10
Mpumalanga (MP) 34 66 73 16
Eastern Cape (EC) 0 0 2 7
Limpopo (LIM) 62 43 34 36
North West (NW) 26 32 21 2
Free State (FS) 7 6 0 0
KZN 58 20 4 25
Western Cape (WC) 0 0 0 2
Northern Cape (NC) 1 0 0
TOTAL 316 267 232 165


For media queries, contact: 
Albi Modise on 083 490 2871

Issued by:
The Department of Environmental Affairs

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