A recently held meeting of the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs and the provincial MECs responsible for environment (MINMEC) has recommended that a moratorium on hunting of rhinoceros be considered as a last resort after all options have been explored.
The decision follows Water and Environmental Affairs Minister, Ms Edna Molewa's commitment in August to engage with her provincial counterparts on the issue of a moratorium in response to the increase in rhino poaching in the country. The moratorium was one of a number of measures the Minister had contemplated to further strengthen interventions to ensure our rhino populations are conserved. The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs also reserves the right to institute a moratorium if there is a clear abuse or absolute collapse in any of the provincial permitting systems.
Since January this year, a total of 324 rhinos have been poached and 186 suspects have been arrested in relation to rhino poaching activities.
South Africa has a proud track record of successful rhino conservation and has the highest number of white rhinos on the continent. At the end of 2010 South Africa had conserved approximately 46% of Africa's black rhino in the wild and 93.2% of the continent's white rhino. This could potentially be one of the reasons why South Africa has attracted this increase in poaching activities.
The meeting also acknowledged interventions that have been put in place by government to thwart the ongoing poaching of rhino, including the recently gazetted amended norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn and the hunting of white rhinoceros for trophy hunting. The standards were issued for public comment.
Among other interventions that are being implemented are the following:
- The published draft Norms and Standards propose, among others, that all rhino hunts must take place under the supervision of a conservation official or an Environmental Management Inspector (EMI). The provinces will ensure that officials attend special EMI training sessions organized by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
- The cleaning up of administrative decision-making process, and commitment by all authorities to issue rhino hunting permits in accordance with agreed national guidelines
- Amendment to section 93 of the Biodiversity Act that will provide the permit issuing authority with the mandate to postpone decisions relating to permit applications if any rhino hunting applicant is under investigation for contravention of the Biodiversity Act in relation to similar activity. Section 93 addresses the cancellation, renewal and amendments of permits.
- This proposed amendment will also make provision for the suspension of a permit if the permit holder is under investigation for contravening the Biodiversity Act or any law governing that activity
The three studies the Department agreed to undertake at the Minister's Rhino Summit held in 2010 will also assist the Minister and further inform the process going forward. The dehorning impact study has been initiated and will be concluded within the next two months. The Terms of Reference for the two other studies, namely the feasibility study to determine the viability of legalizing trade in rhino horn in South Africa; and the global competitive market research assessment study, were recently advertised and the department is evaluating the proposals received.