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Media Release: South African National Parks Responds to Reports Against Auction of 50 White Rhino

19 February 2008

Today South African National Parks (SANParks) responded to statements that have been made through the media regarding the possible auction of 50 rhino by representatives of Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

“It must be made clear that SANParks has not announced the auction of the 50 white rhinos but has rather called for expressions of interest from possible buyers”, said Dr Hector Magome, Managing Executive of Conservation Services.

“We find it ironic that the first objections against this sale were purported to be on the grounds of “flooding the market” and therefore providing competition to the private sector and yet the objections that appear in the media are based on assumptions that animals that are sold in auctions end up being hunted,” said Dr Magome.

“Allegations against SANParks auctioning rhinos for hunting are rather in poor taste and preposterous. SANParks has committed in the past and still commits today to ensuring that known violators of the law in as far as the hunting of wildlife is concerned would be barred from purchasing any of our animals on auction. It is the role of law enforcement agencies to prosecute offenders.”

“SANParks would also like to draw the attention of the public to the fact that hunting is not an illegal activity in South Africa and to also state that as a state organ we will not allow anyone to use the organisation in discrediting a legal activity which has been sanctioned through proper legislative processes. Not withstanding this, SANParks made a policy decision not to allow hunting in National Parks.”

“It should be made abundantly clear that SANParks does not regulate hunting in the country and any protests about hunting, canned or otherwise, should be directed to the relevant authorities. Individuals who have approached SANParks have been informed of this and we hope they will do the right thing.”

The Board of SANParks approved the sale of wildlife, specifically high value species, in 1997. The reasons informing this decision were that funds raised from the sales would be channeled into a Park Development Fund (PDF) that would assist in expanding the National Parks system.

Further to this, the decision by the Board, was also informed by the fact that though white rhino are a listed species for South Africa, they are not endangered species. From a founding population of 100 in the early 1900s and reintroduction in the KNP in the 1960s, the population has grown to over 5,000 in KNP alone and over 12,000 in the country. This number excludes white rhino that has been exported to other countries and removed by other means.

“The PDF funds are used to purchase new land to be incorporated to the National Parks system as well as other high value species which are rare. So far the PDF has contributed some 500,000ha of land since its establishment.”

South Africa has committed to increasing the land under conservation to 8%, from the current 6%, by 2011. Currently state land under conservation is about 7,000,000ha, with National Parks constituting 4,000,000ha of the total. Therefore, another 3,000,000ha of land is needed by the state in order to meet the meet target. Registered Private Game reserves have some 20,000,000ha of land under conservation, a phenomenal contribution to the country’s conservation efforts.

The sale of white rhino for improving the National Parks system is a perfectly legitimate exercise and SANParks may only review its decision to go ahead with the sale if there is extenuating evidence which may lead us to the conclusion that our rhinos may be used in illegal or illicit activities.

Issued:  Corporate Communications, South African National Parks
Inquiries:  Head of Communications, wanda mkutshulwa,
Phone: 012 426 5201/5170, Fax: 012 426 5501

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