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Rhino wars - South Africa to make rhino horn trade legal?

05/04/2012 09:01:23


04 APRIL 2012. Today as I stand before you, it is with immense dismay that I announce that the toll of rhinos poached in South Africa for 2012 has reached the alarming figure of 159, in the midst of the increased anti-poaching effort.

Kruger rhino slaughter
The Kruger National Park continues to bear the brunt of these losses, with the rhinos poached in the park having reached a staggering total of 95. This is no longer an environmental management problem ONLY, but it has become a matter in which we have involved all law enforcement agencies. Operation Rhino continues and remains a standing agenda item of the National Joints Committee (Nat Joints Com), which comprises of senior members of SAPS Organised Crime Unit, The Hawks, NPA and the South African National Defence Force.

90 arrests
The arrests of suspected poachers made in 2012 have reached 90 which is a milestone. The continued arrests of rhino poaching suspects is reflective of the coordinated enforcement efforts across government aimed at addressing the scourge of rhino poaching. The government does not condone the current spate of illegal rhino killings but continues to vigorously fight this scourge by implementing the interventions that we highlighted last year. We also continue to look at new initiatives that can assist us in the fight against rhino poaching.

150 new rangers
It is at this Park that the first group of 75 of the 150 new rangers are currently undergoing a 6 week intense paramilitary training course. The 150 rangers are to be deployed in the Kruger National Park. They have completed their competency tests, all security checks as well as medical assessments.

Last week the Department announced that I held discussions with my counterparts, the Public Works and Defence Ministers, in Kruger and considered the fence in the eastern boundary. In the end it was concluded that the fence will be too expensive and difficult to maintain. Instead we are now looking at a buffer zone between Kruger and the private reserves/farms in Mozambique - same as on the north-eastern boundary of Kruger where there is a Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) arrangement. The same was discussed with the Mozambique authorities and our respective teams are busy with planning already.

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Request to Vietnam to check on trophies
We have recently approached the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and asked if they could conduct inspections and verify that the white rhinoceros trophies exported from South Africa to Vietnam are still in the possession of the hunters. This follows an investigation by the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit (NWCRU).

We are consulting at the diplomatic level and the outcome of this process will allow us to refuse all applications for white rhinoceros hunting by foreign hunters whose state of usual residence is Vietnam.

Vietnamese hunters being investigated
On 7 March 2012 an urgent application was launched against the Limpopo MEC: Economic Development, Environment and Tourism and the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs by Mr. Jan Walters Slippers t/a Ingogo Safari's in the North Gauteng High Court. The application was launched as a result of the Department advising provinces not to issue hunting permits to Vietnamese citizens due to various concerns regarding illegal hunting practices.

The applicant in this matter had applied for hunting permits for 5 Vietnamese citizens. The permits were authorised but subsequently not issued due to the advice from the National Office of the Department of Environmental Affairs mentioned above. He then brought the application in order to compel the MEC to issue the said permits.

The application was heard on 8 March 2012, and judgment was reserved until 9 March 2012. On the said date the court ordered the MEC to issue the permits, subject to the condition that the Vietnamese hunters submit themselves for interviews with designated Departmental officials for the purposes of verifying their personal details, backgrounds, financial ability and related information. The court afforded the Departments an opportunity to once more place the matter before it should the interviews reveal legitimate concerns.

The two departments made the necessary arrangements for the hunters to attend the said interviews, but were informed on the day of these interviews that the hunters were not yet in the country. It was there-after ascertained by the Departments that there were certain legitimate concerns. Based upon these concerns, the matter was once more placed before the court, which on 22 March 2012 ordered that the permits need not be issued. A cost order was made against the applicant. The full judgment was delivered on 26 March 2012.

Rhino horn stockpile
The rhino horn stockpile is an area that continues to generate interest. I do want to reiterate that an inventory of the rhino horn stockpile in the possession of conservation agencies in South Africa has been completed but due to security risks the Department cannot publicly announce the amount of stocks being held by these agencies.

On the issue of stockpiles, I want to use this opportunity to urge private landowners to register their rhino horn stockpiles with their respective provincial conservation authorities. In terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 it is a legal requirement that a permit is obtained to possess rhino horn. The rhino horn should also be included in a register and be micro-chipped. The public can contact the Department's call centre on 086 111 2468 for further information on this matter.

Trade in rhino horn
There has been a lot of interest on the issue of South Africa approaching CITES COP16 with a proposal to trade in rhino horn internationally. At this point, we are not in a position to pronounce on the matter as the internal preparatory processes are not yet finalized. I can however inform you that the process to prepare for the 16th Conference of Parties has been initiated and interested and affected Parties were invited to register to participate in this process. Registration closed on 30 March 2012 and we will consider the draft proposals received. Proposals must be submitted to COP16 by 04 October 2012.

Before South Africa can approach CITES there are certain issues that need to be addressed. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • All rhino horn in private and government possession must be permitted, marked, registered and verified
  • Strategic engagements with regional and international partners
  • Trading partners must be identified and confirmed
  • Legislation of trading partners must be amended to enable them to legally import and sell rhino horn (no legal trade permitted currently in consumer states)
  • Development of a proposed system for trade, including appropriate legislative provisions in South Africa and potential recipient countries (Similar to ivory trade process, where Japan and China had to provide for legislative systems to ensure control mechanisms are in place relating to ivory)
  • Cabinet approval needed before submission of a proposal to the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to amend the annotation to the CITES listing of the South African population of White rhino. Currently the annotation is for the exclusive purpose of allowing international trade in live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations and hunting trophies. All other specimens are deemed to be specimens of species included in Appendix I and the trade in them shall be regulated accordingly (no trade for commercial purposes allowed).
  • If the process is similar to the African elephant down listing and ivory sale proposals, a Panel of Experts (PoE) will be constituted with a ToR that could include the following:


a) Evaluate the status and management of the rhino population, including:

i) the viability and sustainability of the population, and potential risks

ii) the affected range State's demonstrated ability to monitor the subject population and

iii) the effectiveness of current anti-poaching measures;

b) Evaluate the affected range State's ability to control trade rhino horn, including:

i) whether total levels of off take from both legal and illegal killing are sustainable

ii) whether control of rhino horn stocks is adequate to prevent the mixing of legal and illegal rhino horn;

iii) whether law enforcement is effective; and

iv) whether enforcement and controls are sufficient to ensure that no significant amounts of rhino horn taken or traded illegally from other countries are traded within or through the territory of the affected range State; and

c) where appropriate:

i) the trade in parts and derivatives from the White rhino other than the horn and the controls on such trade in the proponent State; and

ii) the controls on rhino horn trade in specified importing countries.


  • Based on the report by the PoE, the Conference of Parties will consider the proposal. Two-thirds majority must be obtained for a proposal to be approved.


The Department announced last week that I would engage my provincial counterparts on 30 March 2012 at MINMEC to approve for publication the amendments to the norms and standards for marking rhino horn and hunting white rhino for trophy hunting that we had drafted. The amendments were published on 30 September 2011 for public comments. I am pleased to announce that the amendments have been approved by MINMEC and will come into effect as soon as it is published in the government gazette.

With regards to the comments received during the comments period, the majority of comments related to but were not restricted to; measures to follow the movement of rhino horns being strengthened to prevent them from entering the international trade market; samples for DNA analysis should also be taken of the live animal when translocated and not only of the horn; confirmation of the bona fide status of the hunting client as well as a provision that horns, which form part of a hunting trophy , must be mounted in South Africa prior to the export of the horns.

To address the comments received, additional obligations and provisions have been included in the final draft norms and standards after the consultation process. Some of the provisions include all detached horns have to be marked by means of a micro-chip, as well as an external mark with a unique number. Additional information that is required from a hunting client in support of the application for a hunting permit; among others include proof of membership of a hunting association, or proof of previous hunting experience.

Some of the key amendments in the norms and standards include, the marking of all live rhinos sold and transported after commencement of the norms and standards that have not been micro-chipped will now have to be micro-chipped. The management of hunting of rhinoceros has been strengthened through among others, clarification that a person may only hunt and export one rhino for trophy purposes within a twelve month period; rhino hunts must take place under the supervision of a conservation official preferably an environmental management inspector from the province concerned.In addition, when considering an application, the issuing authority has to consider whether the country of usual residence of the hunting client, where the horns and hunting trophy will be imported to, has adequate legislation to ensure that the horns and hunting trophy will be used for the purposes as indicated in the CITES export permit. DNA sampling is a new section contained in the norms and standards.

DNA collection
This section states that DNA samples of rhino horns must be collected when live rhinos are darted for translocation, treatment and any other management purposes. DNA samples 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.

The new norms and standards will strengthen the regulatory framework in terms of monitoring the legality of hunts and control over rhino horns. Stricter provisions relating to hunting were required to ensure processes are standardized and to reduce possible abuse of the system. The provinces have indicated that they will be able to implement the norms and standards.

We are continuing to do research work to find more innovative mechanisms to curb rhino poaching. We once again make a call to members of the public to continue with all efforts they have mounted and call for more innovations and involvement of the South African society.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

It is not newness to say that this type of 'people' passes difficulties throughout the life and does not know the reason for suffer. The wild life walks for the inevitable extinguishing and the children of the hunters will die of hunger and headquarters. Made well!

Posted by: Alexandre | 07 Apr 2012 23:39:37


'Xiang ya' is the Chinese word for 'ivory' which is 'elephant's teeth' (correctly known as TUSKS) - 70% of Chinese people think an elephant's TUSKS ('xiang ya' which they call 'teeth') JUST FALL OUT, ARE COLLECTED AND GROW BACK AGAIN AND DIDN'T KNOW THE ELEPHANT HAD TO BE KILLED TO GET THE 'xiang ya' ('ivory'). Elephants have ONLY ONE set of tusks in their lives WHICH ARE FIRMLY & DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN THE BONE OF THEIR SKULLS - TO GET THE IVORY (xiang ya') out YOU MUST KILL THE ELEPHANT AND SMASH / CHIP THE IVORY OUT OF THEIR SKULLS - all for what, to carve trinkets & ornaments & name stamps!

What a selfish IRONY - because a rhino's horn continues growing, at a rate of about 3 INCHES PER YEAR, even after the body of the rhino has stopped growing & rhino horn can be professionally & safely removed without harm to the rhino BUT THEY ARE BEING SLAUGHTERED TO DEATH AND EXTINCTION when they need not die.

THIS IS PURE IGNORANCE - as one Chinese lady aptly termed it.

HONG KONG with an estimated 2011 population of 7,122,508 is the ivory & ivory carving capital of the world.

Main Rhino Horn guilty countries = CHINA, VIETNAM, THAILAND, KOREA, TAIWAN

Main Elephant Ivory guilty countries = CHINA, JAPAN, TAIWAN, THAILAND, VIETNAM, KOREA

It is estimated that 600 AFRICAN ELEPHANTS DIE TO PRODUCE only 6.5 tons of 'ivory' ('xiang ya').

African elephants both female & male have TUSKS ('xiang ya') whereas in Asian elephants only the male has TUSKS ('xiang ya') - so to these guilty people it would appear that to them Africa's elephants are a quick & sure way of 'getting double the amount of ivory ('xiang ya'). Have you GUILTY PEOPLE any idea of what 'the killing fields' of more than ONE MILLION MURDERED DEAD ELEPHANTS on continent Africa COULD POSSIBLY LOOK LIKE!

Ask yourselves why poachers find it necessary for ONE MAGNIFICENT AFRICAN BULL ELEPHANT to be shot 48 TIMES WITH AN AK-47 OR an M-14 AUTOMATIC RIFLE.

WAKE UP - EDUCATE YOUR IGNORANT, cruel & greedy PEOPLE in these guilty countries about Africa's PRECIOUS rhino, elephant, lions and other wildlife.

Maybe you get away with this now... but remember, the heavens always bear witness... the time will come when you will answer for these cruel deeds ...

Lindsay Jenions

Posted by: Lindsay Rooken-Smith Jenions | 06 Apr 2012 11:35:03

Vietnam - rhino poaching

Today, 6th April 2012 from - high demand for powdered rhino horn by new wealthy class of Vietnamese causing huge number of poachers to take up slaughter of rhino with Vietnam thus far largely ignoring huge influx of rhino horn through its borders.
March 2010 Wildlife Extra - probably the last Javan rhino poached in Vietnam's Cat Tien National.
A CALCULATOR IS NOT REQUIRED TO WORK OUT THE INCESSANT DEMAND AND REQUIREMENTS OF POWDERED RHINO HORN FOR CHINA, VIETNAM, THAILAND AND THESE OTHER GUILTY CRUEL ASIAN COUNTRIES - the mathematical equation is very simple - first we poach our own to death and extinction THEN WE QUITE SIMPLY POACH AND TAKE OUR RHINO HORN (& IVORY) NEEDS FROM ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, PARTICULARLY AFRICA, THEY'VE GOT LOTS OF THEM! WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A FLINCH OF CONSCIENCE OR PANG OF GUILT OR THE SLIGHTEST CONCERN AT THE HIDEOUSLY PAINFUL DEATHS THESE ANIMALS MUST GO THROUGH. Apart from this, I find the people of these countries to be extremely selfish & conveniently IGNORANT, yes, I will repeat that, IGNORANT as it is absolutely unnecessary to kill a rhino for its horn as it can grow again if professionally removed.
I am going to state clearly the following - I will never spend a cent of my money to ever visit one of these countries; b) personally, I do not mind in the least if any of the GUILTY people in these many Asian countries who have in the past & continue to demand, buy, deal in, traffick, ingest or falsely claim medicinal cures from RHINO HORN & in these same countries who are guilty in any way - past, present, future - regarding Africa's horrendous, despicable & unforgivable elephant 'killing fields' for IVORY poaching, selling or trade-in, carving etc. - you are a scourge to this planet, I do not mind if you get hit by a volcano, drown in floods, get swallowed up by an earthquake, hit by a meteorite or if you die from some strain of Asian flu. I am sick to my stomach of the foul slaughter you are causing Africa's animals - I do NOT WANT one of you people anywhere near me, I'm sick of your (little)faces & I'm fed up with having to buy your products. Start educating yourselves about the animals of our planet - you supposedly have brains, but you sure don't show that you fill this natural grey matter in your skulls with anything other than extreme cruelty, greed, ignorance and lust as you systematically and deliberately wipe out many of the IRREPLACEABLE precious species of animals on planet earth - elephant, rhino, tigers, lions, sharks, whales, dolphins - & the LIST GOES ON AND ON.
And if you think in any way that giving me a speech about 'people coming before animals', then I must unfortunately tell you that IN MY BOOK it's the animals of planet earth that COME FIRST, so save yourself a bother & your waste of breath.
Lindsay Jenions

Posted by: Lindsay Rooken-Smith Jenions | 06 Apr 2012 09:24:14

SA - Legalise Trade in Rhino Horn

If this is the only way to save SA's rhino - legal trade in rhino horn (given that it is made up of keratin like-hair-nails, can be professionally removed without harm to the rhino & can re-grow, plus there are stock piles) - then it should be tried, however, I'm not sure it will entirely solve the problem, but 50% is better than the present hideous stats. I assume money will want to be made from the trade of rhino horn which immediately causes one (big) obstacle - if a poacher can be paid as little as R1000 (for e.g.), if the horn is traded for more than this then the poaching will continue (considering the astronomical black market price today per kg), Asian buyers will take the cheaper route as they already do by often enticing & taking advantage of some of the poor SA population to carry out the 'hideous' deed. Of extreme concern to me though is why anyone finds it necessary to continue to allow 'hunting' & issue permits for hunting of our rhino - this is not a good message to send out & anyone out there in the world today who wants to or finds it necessary to 'hunt' a rhino when there are only 26,000 left on planet earth is absolutely beyond me. OK, try trading rhino horn, but this 'hunting' of Africa's rhino is for me a definite 'No-No' considering the scarcity of this magnificent animal - & it would appear only 'a certain few are given this ghastly privilege', so some few are walking around in the bush with a permit, & an 'official', then putting a bullet in one of our rhino on condition that they mount the horns in SA before taking them home then they must (supposedly) just keep the horns for show (at home)! (& how often does this happen?) STOP the hunting stuff, the bullet stuff, the take your prized rhino horns home stuff! - personally, I consider this a 'poor decision', it is not necessary - try trading the horn, I pray it works, but this hunting must come to an end. It appears the next CITES convention is 2013 - what are we going to do about all this until then with one rhino being poached in SA every day - perhaps it is time we declared the rhino of Africa to be 'SACRED & ROYAL GAME' & THEY MAY NOT BE HUNTED & SA would still be able to legally trade rhino horn. As for more innovation & involvement from the SA society - the public are trying all they can to help & will continue to do so, every day we feel depressed, heartbroken & frustrated - perhaps it's time Government made a greater effort with educating people, including foreigners, PARTICULARLY ASIAN countries, regarding our rhino - AND PERHAPS IT'S TIME FOR THE CHILDREN OF SA AND AFRICA TO START BEING ALLOWED TO HAVE A SAY, THE RHINO BELONG TO THEM & SA & AFRICA NEED THEIR RHINO POPULATIONS TO STAY HEALTHY & OF GOOD NUMBERS TO ENSURE TOURISM REVENUE FOR THE YEARS TO COME, apart from saving this truly incredible animal FROM EXTINCTION. One other pointer, if we trade in live-rhino, then we must ensure that the rhino ONLY go to countries that HAVE ANIMAL RIGHTS LAWS, THERE MUST BE A CONSTANT CHECK ON THEIR WELL-BEING AND THIS INFORMATION MUST BE MADE AVAILABLE TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC ON A MONTHLY BASIS! ONE QUESTION: DOES SA HAVE ENOUGH RHINO TO SUPPLY ASIA'S CONSTANT RHINO HORN MEDICINAL-MYTH NEEDS - OR, if not, DO WE COME UNSTUCK AGAIN with Africa's rhino once more fighting for their lives & facing extinction - AND WHAT EFFECT IS THIS GOING TO HAVE ON OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRIES REGARDING THEIR RHINO? Thank you, WildLife Extra for all you do for our wildlife. Sincerely, Lindsay Jenions

Posted by: Lindsay Rooken-Smith Jenions | 05 Apr 2012 13:48:01

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