Amended Norms and Standards for Rhino Conservation

Edna Molewa, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs published the proposed amendments to the norms and standards for the marking of rhinoceros horn and hunting of white rhinoceros for trophy hunting purposes for public comment on 30 September 2011 in Gazette No. 34650, General Notice No. 685.

Currently, the provincial conservation authorities issue permits for the sport hunting of rhino and an unfortunate challenge being faced in terms of the permitting of rhino hunting, is the abuse of the system by unscrupulous individuals.

Albi Modise, Spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Affairs emphasised, "The proposed amendments are intended to address the abuse of the permit system. Although illegal hunting is the main threat that could impact on the survival of rhinoceros in the wild in the near future; stricter provisions relating to hunting is required to ensure processes are standardised and to reduce possible abuse of the system.

The Department of Environmental Affairs views this in a very serious light and is committed to the fight against rhino poaching and abuse of the permit system. This is evident from the numerous interventions that have been initiated to this end."

Under the marking of rhino horn all live rhinos sold and transported after the commencement of the norms and standards that have not been micro-chipped before, whether on privately owned or state land must be micro-chipped with one microchip in each of the horns.

Rhino horns obtained as a result of dehorning of the rhino, which were not micro-chipped will now have to be micro-chipped by the permit issuing authority. Provincial authorities must keep the information relating to rhino horns on the TRAFFIC rhino horn stockpile database and the Department of Environmental Affairs must maintain the national database.

On the management of the hunting of white rhino, all rhino hunts must be strictly controlled by means of an individual Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) hunting permit issued by the issuing authority to ensure that all rhino horns can be traced to the property where the hunt took place. The hunting of rhino may therefore not be authorised in terms of a standing permit for game farms, or a game farm hunting permit provided by the owner of a registered game farm.

The period in which a person may hunt a rhino is clarified and it is now specified that a person may only hunt and export one rhino for trophy purposes within a twelve month period.

Furthermore the proposed amendments stipulate that the horns must be transported from the address where the hunt took place to the taxidermist or similar facility to be processed and prepared for exportation. If the rhino horns were not already micro-chipped, they would need to be micro-chipped on the property where the hunt took place, immediately after the hunt.

It is also proposed that rhino hunts must take place under the supervision of a conservation official, preferably an environmental management inspector (EMI) from the province concerned, subject to a permit being issued in the name of the hunter. The official or EMI who attended the hunt must immediately after the hunt provide the Department of Environmental Affairs with information relating to the hunt and the relevant micro-chip numbers

The CITES export permit for the white rhino trophy, which must be accompanied by a copy of the TOPS hunting permit, must be endorsed by an EMI prior to the export of the trophy.

DNA samples of rhino horns is a proposed new section in the norms and standards. This section states that DNA samples of horns must be collected when live rhino are darted for translocation, treatment and any other management purposes. DNA samples also have to be collected from detached horns obtained through amongst others natural mortalities, dehorning, or rhino horn trophies, when such horns have to be micro-chipped. The results of these DNA samples aim to assist enforcement officials to achieve successful prosecutions during criminal proceedings.

DNA samples must be collected by a registered veterinarian responsible for darting of a live rhino; an official from the issuing authority responsible for the micro-chipping, or the conservation official or EMI who supervises the hunt and who has been adequately trained in DNA collection. The DNA sample must be sent to the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at Onderstepoort as soon as possible.

Any person who wishes to submit representations or comments in connection with the proposed amendments to the norms and standards is invited to do so within 30 days of the date of the publication of the notice in the Gazette.

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