Draft rhino horn export rules raise concerns
Publish date: 14 February 2017
Issue Number: 495
Diary: Legalbrief Environmental
Government came under fire last week for the way in which it is handling the rhino poaching crisis in SA, both over its newly released draft regulations on rhino horn exports, and its continued silence on the latest rhino poaching statistics, writes Legalbrief. Environmentalists are up in arms over draft regulations on rhino horn export for personal purposes. According to a Beeld report, the draft regulations published last week allow anyone to export two rhino horns for personal purposes. A permit is needed and exports will only be allowed through OR Tambo International Airport, the draft regulations state. All horn has to be micro-chipped and the name and address of the importer must be specified. Several NGOs have pointed out that the regulations are ‘unexpected’ – as Minister Edna Molewa is still engaged in litigation about domestic rhino trade. The matter is in the hands of the Constitutional Court. NGO Save our Rhino said it will report Molewa to CITES, which still prohibits any international rhino trade. However, Izak du Toit, the lawyer for rhino breeder John Hume – who has launched litigation about domestic rhino trade – praised the draft regulations. ‘The Minister has finally decided to do her job correctly. The sooner people realise that endangered species can only be protected if a monetary value is attached to them, the better.’ The report adds interested parties may send comments on the draft regulations to email@example.com until 10 March.
The draft regulations for the domestic trade in rhino horn have been hailed as a step in the right direction by the Private Rhino Owners Association of SA. A TimesLIVE report notes that the association welcomed the new regulations published in the Government Gazette‚ saying the move could save rhino lives. But Dr Colman O'Criodain‚ WWF wildlife policy manager‚ said reopening domestic trade in rhino horn would make it even harder for already overstretched law enforcement agents to tackle trafficking of rhino horn. Dr Jo Shaw‚ rhino programme manager for WWF South Africa said the organisation was seriously concerned about the challenges that law enforcement and permitting officers would face in trying to manage parallel legal and illegal trade. Shaw urged the government to retain the moratorium and focus efforts on disrupting the organised criminal syndicates involved in rhino horn trafficking, the report states.
The Department of Environmental Affairs will soon ‘provide progress in the fight against rhino poaching’. The department made this commitment in an official statement in response to concerns raised over the lack of rhino poaching statistics. As reported previously in Legalbrief Environmental, in a paper published by Conservation Action Trust, conservation writer Adam Cruise accused Molewa of being tight-lipped about rhino poaching statistics amid claims of rhino horn trafficking within her own government. A report on the News24 site notes that the department has since published a statement saying it has noted concerns expressed by members of the public regarding the release of the latest rhino poaching statistics, and is ‘currently liaising with these various departments to secure a mutually satisfactory date for a next briefing – the date and venue of which will be announced in due course’. The department's Albi Modise, however, confirmed at the start of February that no date had been set for the release of the statistics.
The iSimangaliso Wetlands Park has become a safe haven for three orphaned white rhinos‚ who were released into their new home last week. According to a TimesLIVE report, they are the offspring of rhinos who were poached for their horns at KZN game reserves. The trio – two females and a male‚ all aged around five years – are being cared for by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. iSimangaliso CE Andrew Zaloumis said the three rhinos have formed a close bond. ‘We are very pleased that we can offer these three orphans a new and brighter future,’ he said. ‘As a park undertaking major ecosystems restoration‚ iSimangaliso offers an ideal habitat for them.’
Meanwhile, black rhino are being poached to the ‘brink’ of extinction‚ a new study reveals. A TimesLIVE report quotes Dr Desire Dalton, one of the authors of the international study, as saying: ‘We could not imagine that it (rhino poaching) would have a great effect. It is shocking.’ The study was conducted to investigate what is left of the rhino as ‘well documented’ poaching and subsequent demographic collapse of black rhino populations have ‘raised fears’ that this species will disappear from the wild within the next two decades. The report notes that black rhinos have already been hunted to extinction in many parts of Africa; Nigeria‚ Chad‚ Cameroon‚ Sudan‚ Ethiopia‚ to name but a few. This species is found in only five African countries: Tanzania‚ Zimbabwe‚ Kenya‚ Namibia and SA where the majority of the animals are found. The study found that there has been a ‘staggering’ loss of 69% of the species’ genetic variation.