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Media Release: SA Government welcomes GEF funding to fight rhino poaching

27 June 2012

The funding is aimed at assisting the South African government in reducing poaching of rhinoceroses and the illegal international trade in their horns by strengthening enforcement capacity in Southern Africa through enhancement of forensic-based technologies.

South Africa is home to approximately 22 000 white and black rhinoceros of which 12 000 are found in the Kruger National Park. This represents 93% of the world’s total rhino population.  The South African population is one of the last viable rhino populations in the world which makes it vulnerable. South Africa is therefore the remaining hope for the world in terms of rhino conservation.

Advances in the field of science have made it possible to use DNA analysis for the examination of evidence for a variety of legal issues involving wild animals. To this end, the Department of Environmental Affairs intends to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Pretoria to facilitate collaborations to thwart the ongoing scourge of poaching, particularly of rhinoceros, in tandem with the norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn and the hunting of white rhino for trophy hunting purposes. 

The allocation, which is a shot in the arm for efforts by government to fight rhino poaching, comes two months after the gazetting of revised norms and standards in terms of which  samples are to be taken for DNA analysis of the live  rhinoceros when translocated. The norms and standards further prescribe that DNA samples are collected from the hunted animal and the hunting trophy including horns to verify the legality of the hunt.  The bona fide status of the hunting client and specifications in terms of horn identification and microchipping are also addressed by the revised norms and standards. 

With regard to the collection of samples for DNA profiling, the norms and standards state that when live rhinoceros is darted for translocation, treatment or any other management purpose, samples of the horns and blood must be collected by using the RhODIS™ DNA kits provided by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. Samples may only be collected by either a registered veterinarian responsible for the darting of live rhinoceros, an official from the issuing authority trained in the collection of samples or the official or environmental management inspector who attended the hunt and is trained in the collection of samples. As soon as possible after it has been collected, the samples must be sent to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the Faculty of Veterinary Science of the University of Pretoria at Onderstepoort for analysis for the purpose of DNA profiling and incorporation into the RhODIS™ database.

The allocation comes as a South African Government delegation prepares to visit Hong Kong to take DNA samples of the rhino horns confiscated by the Hong Kong authorities late last year. The DNA will be taken on these horns and matched with the samples in the RhODIS™ database. Matches between these recovered horns and the RhODIS™ database may provide evidence that could be used in further prosecutions. The South African government would like to urge all Non Government Organisations and organisations involved in fighting rhino poaching to continue working together with law enforcement agencies and research institutions to utilise science based evidence for the conviction of alleged poachers. 

Note to Editors:

On 14 November 2011, Hong Kong Customs intercepted 33 pieces of rhino horn and worked ivory concealed in a 40 inch container which was declared as 2 scrap plastic in 63 packages.  The rhino horns and worked ivory were seized for investigation. There were 33 pieces (86.54kg) of rhino horn, 127 pieces (9.2kg) of ivory bracelets and 759 pieces (13.22kg) of ivory chopstick in the consignment which were transported by sea from Cape Town. This is the biggest consignment of illegally traded rhino horn originating from South Africa which has been seized outside of South Africa and any information that can be obtained will be used to facilitate the arrest of the perpetrators.

Media queries:
Albi Modise
on 083 490 2871

Issued by:
The Department of Environmental Affairs on 27 June 2012 



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