Rhino trophy hunting continues in the name of funding conservation despite 778 rhinos killed in South Africa by poachers for the illegal wildlife trafficking trade in 2010 and 2011.
Depending on who you listen to, around 445 rhino were lost last year (2011) in South Africa due to animal poaching. The horn’s brutally hacked off and sold for millions via illegal wildlife trafficking, primarily in the Asian market.
These losses are a 35% increase over the previous year (2010 a then record breaking 333 were killed.) That’s 778 rhino lost to poaching in two years! According to World Wildlife Fund the entire rhino population in South Africa was only around 16,000 at the beginning of 2011. So, that’s a loss of close to 5% of South Africa’s rhino population! With these numbers the rhino’s replacement capacity is surely questionable (more data on this coming.)
So, why is trophy hunting of rhino still permissible, even condoned? Because the money made goes toward rhino conservation and protection? So are we saving rhino “A” by shooting rhino “B”?
The current controversy surrounds a South African businessman who made the winning bid of $118,605.00 for the right to hunt a rhino. This is a government sanctioned hunt, even a wildlife conservation sanctioned hunt.
According to Ezemvelo (the provincial wildlife and environmental agency) the money stands to benefit the impoverished Makhasa community living adjacent to one of the province’s game reserves .
Rhino conservationist Ian Player had this to say:
“… legal hunting made a significant contribution to the recovery of the formerly critically endangered species.
“You cannot expect the community to do that (give up land for conservation) for nothing. I have spent my life protecting the rhino, but as far as Makhasa is concerned, it would be a very serious mistake not to help those people. I really believe that if they make a success at Makhasa, this will be the new frontier for conservation and will encourage other communities to bring in other land for conservation,”
Again the question: Do we save rhino “A” by killing rhino “B” or are there alternatives to fund the protection and conservation of both the Black and White Rhino?
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Save the Rhino has this to say:
We continue to support the sustainable use of wildlife. We are gravely concerned that if South African private rhino owners cannot recoup the costs of having rhinos on their land (trophy hunting provides a good source of income) – the protection and law enforcement costs are extremely high, especially at the moment – then the land available for rhinos and other wildlife will shrink, as landowners turn instead to livestock farming or agriculture.
While we continue to be concerned about the current abuses of the trophy hunting system, we are also concerned that implementing a moratorium on hunting may have unintended and negative consequences which are detrimental to white rhino conservation in the long run. It is suggested that other more targeted actions would be more effective. Therefore SRI does not agree with a total ban, but would urge the authorities to address issues such as illegal “pseudo-hunting” (for example thai prostitutes pretending the be hunters but not able to shoot the gun themselves) and address other permit abuses and we believe there should be a move towards nationally managed hunting permit system and a carefully managed hunting quota taking into account current poaching levels. At the very least a short-term ban whilst the system is sorted out might be prudent but not a long term ban.
There’s more, taken directly from A moratorium on rhino hunting – some thoughts and recommendations by Yolan Friedmann (Endangered Wildlife Trust), Andrew Muir (Wilderness Foundation), Pelham Jones (Private Rhino Owners Association, Wildlife Ranching SA) and Braam Malherbe.
Thoughts on a moratorium on rhino hunting
Implementing a moratorium on hunting may have unintended and negative consequences which are prejudicial to Southern White Rhino conservation as a whole. It is suggested that other more targeted actions would be more effective.
• pseudo-hunting is the practice whereby supposed trophy hunters either need to be told how to shoot or leave the actual shooting to an accompanying Professional Hunter or land owner, a practice that is illegal in South Africa. Sometimes these “hunters” pay above market prices for hunts, yet forego proper trophy preparation.
In the case of rhino hunting the implication is that these “hunters” are in fact abusing the legal system in order to obtain rhino horn for illegal sale. One person is in effect acquiring several rhino hunting permits per year, under the guise of fake hunters. The rise of this practice in South Africa in recent years, especially in the North-West Province, has put our country under increasing international and domestic pressure and criticism.
• The issue of pseudo-hunting needs to be urgently addressed, or South Africa can expect to f ace a proposal to relist its White Rhino under Appendix I at the next C ITES
Conference of the Parties in March 2013.
• Many of South Africa’s state run parks are near their productive carrying capacities and need to remove surplus animals to maintain optimum productivity. To allow t he continued expansion of rhino range and numbers, and so enable overall numbers in the country to continue to grow rapidly, the private sector and communities therefore have to provide the new conservation land for rhino. The extent to which they can do this largely depends on economic incentives and the perceived risk of managing rhinos.
• Historically, live sales, eco-tourism and limited sport hunting have provided economic incentives for the private sector and communities to conserve rhino. This has led to an increase in rhino range and the number of rhinos being managed by the private sector and communities, and there are now estimated to be more than 4 500 White Rhinos conserved on private land in South Africa.
• State conservation agencies have in the past used much of the money raised from live Whit e Rhino sales to either help subsidise the high cost of their conservation efforts (making up the shortfalls in government grants) or in the case of South African National Parks (SANParks), to assist with buying additional conservation land.
• White Rhino sales have been the biggest contributor to total turnover at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) game auctions, both live and catalogue, accounting for 74.9% of total turnover from 2008 to July 2011. The current weighted average price obtained per White Rhino from EKZNW and SANParks 2011 sales combined is R234405. As such, any decline in demand for surplus rhino and any declines in price will also negatively affect state conservation agencies’ ability to execute their gr eater conservation mandate.
• The increase in poaching has led to a number of rhino owners viewing their animals as a liability. This could result in reduced demand for live rhino and a corresponding drop in prices. It is too early to confirm if this is the case but there are already signs that some smaller rhino owners are selling off all their animals, and there has been a drop in the average price achieved f or White Rhino from 2008 to 2010. However, following many well publicised arrests and some recent convictions there are signs that prices are holding up and the average price achieved so far this year per live White Rhino by SANParks and EKZNW Wildlife is up, although off 2008 highs.
• Historically it is believed that White Rhino hunting has contributed to increasing live sale prices. There is therefore a concern that a moratorium on hunting may result in a reduction in prices, and more rhino owners may sell their animals. This would mean a big reduction in the estimated 22 274 km 2 of conservation land that private land owners currently contribute.
• Strictly implementing the current permitting and hunting protocols, with extra attention applied to the current transgressors (landowners and Professional Hunters), would largely address the rise of pseudo-hunting of White Rhino.
Furthermore, as discussed below, moves towards a national managed permitting process would be advantageous.
• In the past, it was not necessary to have a national hunting quota for rhino, as t he number of top dollar hunters from traditional hunting countries such as the United States was limited and as such, market forces dictated that only a limited and sustainable number of Whit e Rhino were hunted every year. However, with the rise of pseudo-hunting and involvement of so-called ‘hunters’ from non-traditional hunting countries, the number of rhino now being hunted is increasing. There have also been allegations that inappropriate animals, such as six-year-old cows that are still actively contributing to the population, have been hunted.
• As indiscriminate, illegal rhino hunting increases, the number of rhinos that can be sustainably hunted will decrease. There is therefore a concern that unregulated hunting may rise to unsustainable levels and become prejudicial to good conservation and population growth. Given this background, and the problems experienced in a small number of provinces, now is probably the time to move towards setting a nationally controlled quota for White Rhino hunts, developing criteria to ensure that only a sustainable number of animals of the appropriate age and sex are hunted each year, and to implement additional controls to minimise pseudo-hunting.
• To avoid “put and take hunts”, whereby rhino are literally “put” into an area only to be “taken” via hunting straight away, regulation 24 of the Threatened or Protected Species Regulations (ToPS) published in 2007, in terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004 (NEMBA), which clearly states that rhinos must have been released in an area for a minimum of 24 months before being hunted, must be enforced. This would ensure that these animals have had a chance to establish a genetic line in the population before being hunted, so contributing to conservation of the species.
• Control of White Rhino hunting could be improved if permitting was handled at a national level. Ideally there should be a quota, which could be adjusted according to poaching rates and rhino numbers in the country. Furthermore, decision making frameworks for assessing hunting permit applications should be developed and implemented. For example, consideration could be given to the number of rhinos that have already been hunted on a particular property, the age and sex of the animal to be hunted, the size of the population and property, whether or not the animal has had an opportunity to become a founder animal in that population and whether or not that property has been fully compliant in providing information on rhino numbers and horn stockpiles. An example of compliance would be whether the relevant permits are in place and the reserve concerned is regularly supplying updated information on rhino numbers, movements and horn stockpiles.
• In light of the concerns outlined above, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Wilderness Foundation, Wildlife Ranching SA, conservationist Braam Malherbe and the Private Rhino Owners Association do not support a hunting ban on White Rhino trophy hunting.
• To address the pseudo-hunting issue, current permitting and hunting protocols must be strictly implemented, with extra attention paid to the current transgressors (land owners and Professional Hunters), especially in the North West Province.
• There should be a move towards a national White Rhino hunting quota (building poaching into this number), with incentives to be offered to those rhino owners helping with metapopulation biological management and who are compliant with legislation.
• There should be a move towards a nationally managed hunting permit system.
• A biodiversity management plan for White Rhinos must be developed as a matter of urgency and we are encouraged a workshop to develop this is to be held later this month.
Compiled by the Endangered Wildlife Trust with input from t h e S A D C R h i n o Management Group – 4 October 2011.
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