National 11.2.2015 06:30 am

Rhino trade a horny issue

FILE PICTURE: Rhino. Picture: AFP

FILE PICTURE: Rhino. Picture: AFP

In a possible world first, a committee to investigate the feasibility of legalising the sale of rhino horn has been established.

The committee, appointed by Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, appears to be carefully structured with 11 of the members being government officials who may have to toe the line if government is determined to sell the horn.

The committee, however, doesn’t present the squeaky clean image one would hope for when dealing with an amount of money this massive.

Dirty dealings

In 2005 committee member Lourence Mogakane was fired as the financial director of the Bohlabela district municipality in Limpopo for gross misconduct and financial mismanagement.

Committee chairperson Nana Magomola was suspended from her directorship at the National Gambling Board and resigned before a forensic report into her alleged misconduct was handed to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Committee member Hosi Ntsanwisi, a representative of the National House of Traditional Leaders, was investigated for his part in allegedly concealing the death and possible rape of Amukelani Malatji, 10, at an initial school in 2012. The outcome of this case is not known at this stage.

Special measures

It’s a suspicion borne by many that government may have ulterior motives with regards to the multi-billion Rand 21 ton stockpile of rhino horn and conservationist Dex Kotze makes note of it on his Africa Geographic blog, Why legalising trade in horn will hasten the demise of rhinos.

“The DEA’s absence from the London Wildlife Conference earlier in 2014, and President Zuma’s failure to attend a plenary session on combating wildlife crime in Washington in August, whilst attending the US-Africa summit, strengthens opinion that the government has already adopted a stance in favour of rhino horn trade,” Kotze wrote in November.

The problem is of course, if pressure from poaching continues at this rate, the point at which more rhino are killed than born is not far off, said South African National Parks’ Sam Ferreira yesterday.

The overall response of government, private operations and an increasingly worried public has been to throw growing piles of cash at the problem, without which the 1215 rhino poached in South Africa last year would be far greater.

Government also took the extraordinary step of moving Kruger rhino to safer climes, both within the park and outside, putting up a so-called “ring of steel” within the park where high density patrol will keep an eye on an equally dense rhino population. This created the need for thinning the population in order to stimulate breeding and stave off the dreaded “tipping point”.

rhino horns

Yet, “Despite South Africa’s efforts and a rise in the number of arrests and prosecutions for rhino poaching related crimes – poaching is on the rise,” Molewa said.

Kotze slammed the idea of selling rhino horn, and wrote: “South Africa’s poor record of governance and corruption at the highest level under President Zuma is a major obstacle for legalised trade to work.

“Stockpiles of rhino horn worth millions have already been stolen from government offices where safe custody, security alarms and electric fences were blatantly absent.”

In less than two years, the committee will have to navigate its way to a conclusion which Molewa intends presenting at17th Congress of Parties (COP17) to the international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Kotze didn’t have high hopes for a “no trade” result. “The committee appears to be very pro-trade. Also, in the eight years of escalating rhino poaching, it is still not a schedule five crime which would stiffen sentences,” he told The Citizen.

Interested stakeholders and organisations can register with Mpho Tjiane at mtjiane@environment.gov.za

Let the horn go

Michael ’t Sas-Rolfe believes government is finally taking the dilemma of what to do with its rhino horn stockpile seriously.

“I’ve advocated for a long time all options need to be considered,” said ’t Sas-Rolfe, an advocate of trade in rhino horn and now a member of Molewa’s committee. “We need to at least consider legalisation and the effect it might have particularly given the financial pinch experienced by the private and government sectors regarding high security costs.

“It’s not necessarily going to be sold, but it is one of many things we’re going to consider.

He said it would not be a good idea to dump the entire stockpile at once on the market. “It will cause the price to crash but then speculators will probably move in and mop up the horn. This then creates a scenario where demand kicks in again. We want a solution which is sustainable and thats what we’re going to be looking at,” said ’t Sas-Rolfe.

Committee members

Committee chair – Nana Magomola

Lourence Mogakane, Chairperson: National Committee of People & Parks Programme

Hosi Ntsanwisi, representative of the National House of Traditional Leaders

Yolan Friedmann, Chief Executive Officer: Endangered Wildlife Trust

Dr. Jo Shaw, Rhino Coordinator (WWF South Africa)

P Gastrow, The Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime

Dr. M Knight, Rhino Management Group

Pelham Jones, Private Rhino Owners Association

K Lockwood, Economist

Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes, Environmental Resource Economist

Prof. J Donaldson, Chair of Scientific Authority

Lt-Gen.  Elias Mawela, South African Police Services (SAPS)

Adv. J de Lange, Legal advisor

Adv. Pieter du Rand, Department of Justice and Correctional Services

Dr. Lyle Pienaar, State Security Agency (SSA)

Nthabiseng Malefane, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)

Mandisa Motha-Ngumla, South African Revenue Services  (SARS)

Dr. Sam Ferreira, South African National Parks (SANPARKS)

Dr. David Mabunda, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

Johan Eksteen, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency

Riaan de Jager, Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism

Dr. Wendy Annecke , South African National Parks (SANPARKS)

Terms of Reference of the Committee

To investigate, evaluate, report on and make recommendations relating to a diverse set of key areas including, but not limited to:

If trade was to be an option, the potential models / mechanisms for trade and criteria / conditions (issues to be considered include: models – strictly controlled trade, i.e. once-off sale of stockpiles, government to government trade or more open regulated trade; sources of specimens and specimens to be traded; the benefits and risks associated with the different options; possible trade partners and the criteria to be met by these States; conditions; and the financial mechanisms);

The socio-economic impact and potential benefits to communities, farmers, conservation authorities and rhino and elephant conservation, including the economic opportunities for communities from wildlife management, and the risks posed by wildlife trafficking (e.g. infiltration of criminal elements in communities).

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