With the rapid decrease in rhino populations, especially in South Africa where most of Africa's rhino live, many questions are being raised concerning the management of national parks in the country. With its greatest park, the Kruger National Park, sharing borders with the neighbouring countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, South African management is being blamed for the rate at which rhino are being poached and exported, or poached.
Trophy hunting safaris are still organized for wealthy individuals who wish to hunt and shoot a wild animal. Due to the increasing threat to rhino populations, many believe that trophy hunting should exclude the hunt for rhino. Others, including private game ranch owners, argue that trophy hunting brings in a large profit, which is then used for conservation purposes. Supporters of the activity state that it is a sustainable trade as only those rhinos that are too old to reproduce or who pose a threat to other rhinos and species are hunted.
Studies and reports on the trade have also found that in areas where trophy hunting was allowed, the rhino population slowly started increasing. These facts were compared to the effects of poaching, which prove to be negative. The value of the rhino horns is extremely high due to laws forbidding poaching. This leads to an increase in demand, especially from wealthy foreigners who can afford to support the trade. This vicious cycle leads to the uncontrolled poaching of rhino and threat to the rangers and game ranch owners.
There is a way of thinking within South African environmental authorities that promotes the killing of rhinos rather than protecting and respecting them, Animal Rights Africa (ARA) was quoted as saying. This is according to a report by ARA, which has been involved in a war of words with SANParks over the management of rhinos in South Africa over the last couple of months. "Whether SANParks likes it or not, the public have a right to be concerned, to express this concern and to expect transparency and accountability from government agencies," said ARA spokesperson Michele Pickover. ARA said that despite SANParks "angry kneejerk response" there was little doubt that there was national and international concern about the current protection and management of the animals in South Africa.
Pickover said by allowing SANParks to use "sustainable use" to trump issues of conservation, government conservation agencies seem to be interpreting their mandate as custodians in a way that was debatable. She said the ARA report "Under Siege: Rhinoceroses in South Africa", which also collated information relating to the hunting, trade and poaching of rhinos, revealed a worrying trend.
The report shows enormous suffering by animals, a lack of centralized statistics and data, an uncoordinated response from authorities, insufficient enforcement and resources to adequately protect the rhino population, and "a general way of thinking that promotes killing instead of protection and respect". The report says it was now "abundantly clear" that not only are rhinoceroses in South Africa facing one of the worst threats ever as a species but that they were under siege. It further states that South Africa has become the conduit of most of the rhinoceros horns leaving the African continent.
The report suggests an end to all rhino hunting in South Africa because it had been proven to be as great a problem as poaching. It further suggests re-examining the entire Cites report procedure because it was clear that limited and inaccurate information was submitted, and to open the government policy of "sustainable use" and trophy hunting to public debate. ARA also wants South Africa to impose an immediate moratorium on all capture, sale, translocation and hunting of rhinos in South Africa. - SAPA management